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• * * • .•- 



PART U.—CoA'dhtteef. '-■'-''■'■' -■' 

' For everyone knows 
That there's nothing so filthy, so vulgar, as prose.' 

"\ T^ES, the argument is ended, but so 
■'- are not by any means the emotions 
it awoke. All through the night these 
rage and fume round Gillian's bed. It is 
a comfortable bed, soft and springy ; but it 
might be stuffed with cannon-balls for all 
the ease or rest that she is able to draw 

™'- "■ i7i37487 ^' 

Second Thoughts. 

from It. Nor is her pillow unwet by many- 
briny tears ; tears that though no one sees 
them, she is heartily ashamed of shedding, 
and yet cannot keep back. Their origin 
is partly — for we cannot change our 
natures in a moment, no, nor yet in two 
months — a smarting pride at having her 
. will, met. fgice to face in single combat, and 
worsted ISy kriotfier still robuster one ; at 
^ ikvihgf . -h'er: jjiidgme'nt called in question, 
her ignorance compassionated, and her 

cherished plans quietly but irrevocably 

* I have not sufficient control over my 
temper,' she says to herself, weeping ; 
* but oh ! I should have been more than 
human if I had kept it ! He is a good man,' 
she says, sitting up in bed, in the dark, 
and wiping her eyes — ' upright, honourable, 
true ; but his sympathies are narrow, his 
\ aims low, his prejudices inveterate ; he has 
i no feeling for the large needs of humanity.' 

Second Thoughts. 

But not even this praiseworthy effort to 
turn the tables, and feel a superior pity for 
him and his contracted nature, brings her 
much relief. A worse sting than any 
arising from c hafed pride or baffled 
obstinacy has been left by their passage 
of arms. One would think that it must 
be of little consequence to her at this time 
of day what his opinion of her is ; that she 
must, as she herself has so often said, be 
so irrevocably lost in his esteem, that any 
efforts to regain it would be futile. But 
we all of us say many things that we do 
not mean. 

*We had certainly begun to get on 
better,* she says, still speaking aloud in a 
low distressed voice. * A stranger might 
not have noticed the difference, but every 
day the ice was thawing a little ; and now 
— now — it is all the old state of things over 

The old state of things which she has 

21 — 2 

Second Thoughts. 

latterly been so sedulously trying to wipe 
out of her memory, with a sort of super- 
stitious idea that perhaps in proportion as 
it fades from her mind it may also from 
his. And here it all is back again — here 
in the dark where every thought has such 
sharpness of outline ; every image such 

The night is old, and the cabs of belated 
revellers are giving way to the heavy 
morning waggons on the unresting pave- 
ment ere she wearily falls asleep. She 
wakes with a headache ; not a very 
pleasant morning companion, but of which 
to-day she is rather glad, as it gives her a 
valid excuse for not appearing at break- 
fast. She knows that it is only putting off 
a little the evil day ; that as sure as one 
o clock comes, he must issue from his 
consulting-room, and she from her boudoir, 
and the hostile forces again be set over 
against each other. Her boudoir is 

Second Thoughts. 

indeed to-day not available, as it is 
occupied by workmen, setting right some- 
thing slightly amiss with the grate, so that 
even privacy is denied her. It is true 
that the drawing-room remains empty 
most of the morning, and that when her 
solitude is infringed, it is by a visitor of 
her own ; but the feeling that at any 
moment some one may enter and surprise 
her, causes her a disproportionate con- 
straint and ennui. She has dawdled 
downstairs languidly, still heavy-headed — 
the sprightly energy of the last few days, 
born of the hopeful prospect of employ- 
ment, thrown back on itself — and has 
listlessly, with a flaccid body and mind, 
drawn a chair to the fire, and opened a 
book. Gillian is not very fond of reading ; 
her active outdoor life has unfitted her 
for habits of sedentary occupation, and 
the hours lag. Even when an inter- 
ruption comes, it does not to her mind 

Second Thoughts. 

greatly improve the state of things inter- 

At about a quarter to one, the butler 
brings her a card on a salver. ' Mr. 
Francis Cha loner/ she reads, taking it up 
carelessly, and for a moment she is puzzled 
as to who Mr. Francis Chaloner may be, 
so far from him have her thoughts been 
ranging. Then recollection comes back, 
accompanied by that rush of shrinking 
distaste with which everybody and every- 
thing connected, however remotely, with 
her first meeting with Burnet is now 
regarded in her mind. 

* Mr. Francis Chaloner,' she repeats 

dreamily — ' is he * But before she can 

finish her sentence, the long pale poet 
stands before her. 

' I am early,* he says, with subdued sad- 
ness — * perhaps too early. Do I derange 
you } must I go ?' 

' Of course not,* she answers, laughing 

Second Thoughts. 

nervously, and with a vigorous effort to 
shake off the fangs of memory which, at 
the sight of his Early Byzantine face, and 
the sound of his faint voice, are planting 
themselves so deeply in her heart. * I am 
not busy ; I am doing nothing. I never 
am doing anything now.* 

' What a terrible room !' he says, with 
a slight but perceptible shudder, his 
sorrowful eyes wandering round the room : 
the blinds pulled well up to the very top 
giving him plenty of light for examining 
the bold design and lively colours of the 
expensive carpet : the good strong un- 
deniable blue of the carefully looped 
curtains, and the outlines of the first- 
class walnut drawing-room suite, disposed 
with stiff neatness about the apartment. 

* Do you think so ?' replies Gillian, 
coldly ; ' I think I like it. One has had 
of late years such a surfeit of cholera 
blues and livid greens, that one begins 

8 Second Thoughts. 

to long for magenta and arsenic back 

But he does not heed : he is still look- 
ing, still slightly shivering : 

* How ungraceful ! how un-Greek !* he 
murmurs, half under his breath. 

She reseats herself impatiently : 

* I had heard that your entourage was 
unlovely,* he continues presently, * empty 
of rhythm and phantasy, but I had not 
anticipated anything quite so shocking !* 

* I tell you I like it,* she says per- 
versely ; * I find it a refreshing change 
from sunflowers and peacock's eyes.* 

He smiles mournfully. 

* Please may I sit here T he asks, draw- 
ing a small stool to her feet, and carefully 
arranging himself so as to have his back 
turned to as much as is possible of the 
obnoxious furniture — in which, however, 
he is baulked, as the large expanse of pier 
glass over the chimney-piece gives him 

Second Thoughts. 

back faithfully every detail. * I have 
brought you a little Ritournelle, as a 
Frlihlings Gruss/ he says presently, 
shaking back the long waves of his honey- 
coloured hair. * I wished to read it to you, 
but I do not quite know whether I could 
read it here !* glancing round apprehen- 
sively at the walnut suite. 

* Why not .^' 

* It should be read/ he says gently, ' to 
the low pale sound of the viol or virginal : 
with a subtle perfume of dead roses float- 
ing about, while the eye is fed with por- 
phyry vases and tender Tyrian dyes !* 

* Then it certainly cannot be read here,* 
replies Gillian, with a dry but humorous 
glance at the India-rubber plant, and the 
lustres under glass shades. 

* If you wish it, I will try,* he says, with 
a soft sigh, putting his long slight hand 
into his pocket, and drawing thence a 
faintly-tinted, attar-scented manuscript. 

lo Second Thoughts. 

* Is it long ?* asks Gillian, with a covert 
but anxious look at the large-faced gilt 

* I think you will like the burden/ he 
says, disregarding her query, while a faint 
flush of colour steals into his pale face. 

* Shall I ?* says Gillian, absently ; * what 
is it T 

His voice trembles a little : 

* Ho ! sick-sweet beryl eyes !' 

* Sick r says Gillian, in a demurring 
tone ; * why sick ? I do not like sick P 

* Surely,' he says gently, but firmly, 
* there is nothing so beautiful as disease. 
The beauty of a pearl is greater than that 
of any other jewel, because it is the beauty 
of disease.* 

He has gradually slidden from his stool 
on to the hearthrug, only his elbow now 
rests upon it. His wan face, propped by 
his hand, is lifted towards her. Before 
she can reply — which indeed she is in no 

Second Thoughts. ii 

hurry to do— a hand, a busier, quicker 
hand, as she well knows, than the butler s, 
is laid on the door-handle ; the door 
opens, and Burnet hurriedly enters. Her 
first glance at his face shows his thought- 
ful forehead furrowed by its usual look of 
overworked preoccupation ; but as his eye 
lights on the little tableau before him — the 
utter intimate abandonment of posture of 
the graceful youth, of whose presence in 
his house even he had had no suspicion — 
a rapid change, such a change as Gillian 
afterwards can neither qualify nor account 
for, passes over his features. 

* I beg your pardon,' he says, in a dry 
voice ; * I thought my sister was here,' and 
so prepares to shut the door as quickly as 
he opened it. 

* She is — she was — I mean she will be !' 
cries Gillian incoherently, jumping up, and 
running impulsively after him. She over- 
takes him on the landing. 

12 Second Thoughts. 

* Please come back !* she says breath- 
lessly ; * I want you to allow me to intro- 
duce you to my acquaintance — my slight 
acquaintance' — with a painstaking accent 
on the adjective — * Mr. Chaloner/ 

* If you wish it, I shall be happy!' he 
says unpleasantly, looking the while at her 
eager young eyes and the mortified 
carmine of her pretty cheeks with an 
expression in which admiration is appar- 
ently not the predominant feeling. 

To the drawing-room they return ; the 
presentation takes place, and at the same 
moment the luncheon-bell rings. 

* You will give us the pleasure of your 
company at luncheon, I hope T says 
Burnet, with ceremonious smileless polite- 

* You are very good,' replies the other, 
the same slight shiver passing over his 
fragile form at the sound of Burnet's 
quick decided voice, at the sight of his 

Second Thoughts. 13 

keen practical face, as had been produced 
by the carpet and curtains ; * but luncheon 
to me means a wafer, a grape, a few syrup- 
drops/ Then turning to Gillian, and 
fastening upon her the sleepy sorrow of 
his sunken eyes in a pale yet lingering 
look : * It has been very solemn and 
precious/ he says simply. 'Auf Wieder- 
sehen !' 

Five minutes later, the wonted three are 
seated at the luncheon-table. 

* I was told that you had a headache,' 
says Miss Burnet, her eyes fixed with 
brutal directness on the girls hot bloom. 
* I cannot say that I see much trace of it.' 

Explain it who may, but Miss Burnet is 
seldom pleased at anyone but herself 
laying claim to an ailment of any sort. 
It is rarely indeed that she does not throw 
doubts upon its authenticity. 

* But in very truth I have,* replies 
Gillian; *in fact,* half turning with an 

14 Second Thoughts. 

anxious look towards Burnet, *if I had 
not had one already, I think that the 
ordeal I have been passing through this 
morning was quite enough to give me 

She ends with a nervous appealing 
laugh, which finds no echo in either of her 
companions. Mi^, Burnet seldom laughs ; 
never at anyone else's jokes. If she is 
moved to rare and difficult mirth, it is at 
some recondite jest of her own, that no 
one else sees. Neither does Burnet move 
a muscle. His eyes remain fixed with an 
expression of explicit ill-humour on his 
plate ; nor does he offer either observation 
or inquiry. 

*As for you, John,* says his sister 
presently, changing the direction of her 
glance, and employing her usual unsparing 
faithfulness in the mode of her address 
* you are as yellow as a crow-flower. For 
my part, I never knew a water-drinker that 

Second Thoughts. 15 

was not. Nasty cold stuff! sure, sooner or 
later, to destroy the tone of the stomach.' 
The object of this attack makes no 

1 6 Second Thoughts. 

not speak. Then shaking her iron-grey 
head : * It is his liver !' she says tersely. 
* I knew how it would be/ 

* Is it possible ?* says Gillian, in a low, 
awed voice ; * did I understand you 
aright ? Do you mean to say that Dr. 
Burnet drinks water on principle — that 
he has taken the pledge ?* 

* Principle ! Pledge !' repeats Miss 
Burnet» in a tone of the most ireful con- 
tempt. * Pooh ! I should like to know 
how many fewer drunkards there are 
likely to be at the end of the year because 
he is such a fool as to choose to make 
himself dyspeptic by docking his couple 
of glasses of sherry !* 

* But surely,' rejoins the girl, in a rather 
didactic tone, * that line of reasoning would 
tend to paralyse individual effort in every 

* And a very good thing if it did,' says 
the other, rudely. 

Second Thoughts. 17 

■ - — . - .- 

A slight ironical smile steals over Miss 
Latimer s face. 

' There is reason in roasting eggs/ con- 
tinues Miss Burnet, in a surly tone, begin- 
ning to huddle her Shetland shawl about 
her shoulders preparatory to a move, * but 
there is none in a man like John — a con- 
sulting surgeon in large- practice, who 
never has a moment he can call his own, 
who is at work all day and very often 
all night too— moidering his brain with 
temperance meetings, cocoa-houses, tem- 
perance papers, and such trash/ 

During this speech, a deep colour of 
mixed shame and joy has kept flowing 
into Gillian's cheeks. 

* But does he ?' she says in an eager 
voice, fixing her sparkling eyes on the 
sour old face before her. 

* Does he indeed !' repeats the other 
pregnantly, with a dry laugh, and so 
gathers herself out of her chair, and goes. 

VOL. II. 22 


A FOG has come on. The gas has to 
be lit three hours before its time ; 
all the world beyond the window-panes is 
choking yellow vapour, and Gillian's drive 
is given up. To-day she does not, as has 
been her wont in such cases, seek the 
warm still privacy of her own sitting-room ; 
on the contrary, she chooses voluntarily 
the society of her hostess. If her motive 
has been to draw out still further that lady 
on the subject which had occupied them 
at luncheon, she is not rewarded by the 
success she deserves. 

Second Thoughts. 19 

Miss Burnet, after her short spurt of 
talkativeness, has declined into a solid 
lethargic silence. And when Miss Burnet 
feels inclined to be silent, neither man nor 
woman can make her talk ; as, on the 
other hand, if she is disposed for con- 
versation, no sense of time, place, nor 
fitness can stop her. At the end of 
several hours of persevering and laborious 
pumping. Miss Latimer has not arrived at 
much beyond the main facts already in her 
possession. From her companion s surly 
monosyllables and grumbling admissions, 
she has indeed gathered beyond a doubt that 
Dr. Burnet, although the incessant occupa- 
tion of his profession renders it impossible 
for him actively to participate in it, is yet 
with heart and soul, with all the energies 
of his eager mind, by precept and example, 
among every class with which he comes in 
contact — among the students at the hospital 
which he daily visits, among the poor 

22 — 2 

20 Second Thoughts. 

whom he daily sees, among the higher 
classes in which his practice chiefly lies — 
trying to help that great effort, his cold 
indifferency towards which she had con- 
demned. At dinner-time she is walking 
slowly downstairs, with her head hanging, 
and her heart and conscience full of him, 
when she comes suddenly face to face with 
him on the landing outside the drawing- 
room door. He has been running up two 
steps at a time, and would now pass her 
with a constrained smile and a half-bow, 
when, seeing him thus about to slip away 
from her — to her he seems now to be 
always slipping away from her — she 
stretches out her hand detainingly towards 

* Are you in a great hurry T she asks, 
in a quick embarrassed voice ; * I wished 
to speak to you for a minute.' 

* I am always in a hurry, I am sorry to 
say,' he answers, his face relaxing a little 

Second Thoughts. 21 

in spite of himself; *but of course I am 
at your service.' 

It is a stiff way of wording it, and so 
she feels. 

* It is nothing of any consequence/ she 
says, in a chilled voice ; * of course I might 
just as well have said it to you the first 
moment I found you at leisure, but I could 
not rest until I had asked your pardon — 
until I had owned to you how grossly I 
had wronged you, as to — as to the subject 
we were discussing last night.' 

He looks silently at her ; at the gracious 
figure, the well-poised head, the sweetly 
apologetic face. One would think that 
together they made a pleasant picture for 
a tired man coming home from painful 
sights, and yet he turns his eyes away. 
She attributes his muteness and his 
gesture to an inveterate displeasure. 

* Are we never to do justice to each 
other .'^' she cries, in a despairing voice. 

22 Second Thoughts, 

* Are we never to see each other as we 

Then he speaks. 

*You say that you wish to beg my 
pardon/ he says, in a quick, nervous voice. 

* I must tell you that I meant to seek you 
for a like purpose — that is, to beg yours. 
I came up with that object to the drawing- 
room this morning, but' — his voice grow- 
ing frosty — * I found you engaged.* 

* Did you indeed ?* she cries, with an 
accent of unaffected joy. * I mean, did 
you really intend to beg my pardon ? — and 
what for ?* 

' I spoke to you unjustifiably, in a tone 
that I had no right to adopt ; and though,' 
with a rather obstinate shake of his dark 
head, ' I still think I was right in the 
main * 

'And / still think that / was right in 
the main !* interrupts she, merrily ; her 
excellent spirits rising elastic from the 

Second Thoughts. 23 

pressure which ever since their last night s 
quarrel has lain upon them. * I have not, 
as you know/ with a contrite droop of 
head and eyelids, * much control over my 
temper, and last night I was injudicious 
and Pharisaic ; but oh ! I think I was 
right in struggling for a little work. If you 
knew — but that of course you never can 
know — how long the hours are when they 
are quite, quite empty !* 

He looks at her with a sort of wistful- 
ness. In the gas-light his face is very 

* I am afraid it is very dull for you,' he 
says gently ; ' but you must remember that 
it is not for long — that it will soon be 

* That is true,' she answers quietly. 

* And I hope,' he pursues earnestly, 
* that you will try to alleviate as much as 
may be the gine of your position by seeing 
as many of your friends here as possible. 


24 Second Thoughts. 

I was afraid afterwards/ speaking with 
an evident effort over himself, *that I 
had treated the one I found with you this 
morning with some discourtesy. I hope 
that you will explain to him that I meant 
nothing — that it was only manner/ * 

* I have already tried to disabuse you 
of the idea that that person was a friend 
of mine !' replies Gillian, in a nettled tone. 
* Since you persist in treating him as 
such * 

There is such evident angry veracity 
in look and voice that his brow clears. 

* I am convinced,* he says, smiling a 
little. ' I suppose ' — rather demurely — ^ 
*that I must have been misled by his 

She smiles also, and blushes slightly. 

* It was enough to mislead anyone,' 
she says impatiently ; then : * But now 
that all misunderstandings between us are 
cleared up' — he starts perceptibly, as if 

Second Thoughts. 25 

this were to him quite a new view — Met 
us return to our subject. You will see that 
I am obstinate — not easily baffled. I am 
sure,* in an almost coaxing tone, * that if 
you would, you could find me work.* 

* Could I T he says thoughtfully, eying 
rather appraisingly, as to its capabilities, 
her robust yet delicate beauty. * I should 
not wonder if I could ; but of what kind ?' 

* Any kind !* she cries vehemently ; * I 
am not particular. Anything that this 
he^d,* lightly touching it with her finger, 
* can plan, or these hands,* stretching 
them forth towards him, * can carry out !* 

Her whole face is lit up, as if a lamp 
were burning inside it. Perhaps her 
enthusiasm is catching. 

* We will see,* he says slowly. 

* It is a bargain !* she cries gaily. * We 
will talk details over to-night.* Then, 
seeing that he is about to interrupt her : 
'No, I will hear no ^^Buts** or **Ifs;** 

26 Second Thoughts, 

and I am making you so late. Au 
revoir. ' 

With a gracious friendly movement of 
her head, she leaves him and runs lightly 
down to the drawing-room ; her whole 
being happily astir, her headache gone and 
forgotten, her brain busily working, all her 
pulses beating to a joy-tune. In imagi- 
nation she is already planning out their 
evening — his and hers. Miss Burnet will 
almost certainly again go to bed early, and 
the tite-ct-tHe of yesterday will be repeated 
— repeated, yes — but with a difference : 
what a difference ! Shortly, dinner is an- 
nounced, and she and her hostess go down. 
Burnet very often only joins them in the 
dining-room. But in entering this room 
a feeling of blank disappointment comes 
over her, as she perceives that only two 
places are laid. They are half-way through 
their soup before sjie can command her 
voice to ask, in a tone of indifference, that 

Second Thoughts. 27 

question which for ten minutes has been 
hovering on her lips. 

' Dr. Burnet is not coming ?' 

28 Second Thoughts. 

you a good deal-r-more than I should have 
liked — when they lunched here the other 


' The Tarltons ?' cries Gillian, in an 

incredulous tone. 

* Yes, that is it.* 

' But I did not know — I had no idea 
that they were acquainted,* with an accent 
that she tries to make only surprised, but 
which would be clearly perceived by any- 
one who knew her well to be also one of 
poignant vexation. 

* Why, it was your doing ; they met 
here,* says Miss Burnet, brusquely ; then, 
* He must have been finely late,* she goes 
on, with a look at the clock. * I never saw 
him in such a fuss and fidget in my life ; 
he seemed quite put out because some one 
had detained him.* 

* I am afraid that I was that some one,' 
says Gillian, with a forced laugh, though 
her voice falters a little. * I stopped him 

Second Thoughts, 29 

on the stairs for a few minutes, to speak 

to him on — on — business.' 

* And he did not tell you? Humph! I 

cannot think why he should make a 
mystery of it. I have no patience with 

There is another large tract of silence — 
a silence during which Gillian forgets to 
eat, and which she spends in asking her- 
self disagreeable questions to which there 
are no answers. If her liking for him — 
she has been gradually coming to own for 
some time past that such a thing exists — if 
her liking for him were not a selfish one, 
would not she be glad and thankful that 
he should be now, after his long day s 
work, unbending his tired mind and re- 
freshing his fagged body in the society of 
an appreciative woman — to Gillian's mind, 
the evening presents herself under the 
form of an unbroken tHe-a-tHe with 
Sophia — instead of making one of that 

30 Second Thoughts. 

mournful trio in which she has nightly 
seen him play his dismal third ? 

' Did he tell you whether they were to 
be alone, or if it was to be a dinner-party ?' 
she asks, by-and-by rousing herself. 

'Who?' says Miss Burnet, in a tone 
that reveals to the girl how long has been 
the interval since her last remark — ' John ? 
I had' forgotten all about him' — with a 
shrug. ' I never asked him. I begged 
him to come upstairs quietly on his return ; 
there is nothing I hate more than being 
waked out of my first sleep.' 


THIS is Gillian's earliest sip of a cup 
of which she afterwards takes many 
a draught. She could hardly tell you how 
many — they have been so numerous — 
between the evening we have just men- 
tioned and the May mon^h that is now 
here, the froward May month that all the 
foolish poets have chosen for their pet and 

It has been a churlish, laggard spring. 
To Gillian it has seemed as if the trees in 
the Parks would never unfold their cold, 
tight buds, and that the shrewish east 

32 Second Thoughts. 

wind would for ever blow. It has gone at 
last ; for a few days only, to return pro- 
bably and tarnish the glories of early June ; 
but now, at least, it is away. The air is 
as soft as silk : in the sooty square- 
gardens, on the black lilac and laburnum 
bushes have come bunches of delicious 
new flowers that one can hardly believe 
to belong to them. Everyone that is 
country-hearted is beginning to long for 
the sight of the frolicsome lambs, and the 
voice of the speckled thrush. The houses 
have all clean faces; the shutters are down, 
and the window-boxes planted for the 

In the Park, the afternoon sun shines 
on an endless flutter of gay parasols, 
lustre of satin-coated horses, and flash of 
bright harness : to the doors of all the 
great shops lead avenues of bored foot- 
men, and the Spring Captains have come 
forth in might. 

Second Thoughts. 33 

The town is full, and the season in mad 
swing. Even to Gillian, though she had 
supposed herself to be not going out, it has 
brought a press of engagements. Although 
she has taken no pains to advertise her 
presence, her acquaintances have found 
her out in swarms. Although warned by 
the egregious mistake she had once made 
in this direction, she tries honestly not to 
credit them with mercenary motives, yet 
the reflection will recur of how much more 
sisterly to her are the sisters, how much 
more motherly the mothers, than they 
were this time last year. In the men 
themselves she detects less difference. To 
do them justice, they had always made 
much of her ; but even in some of them 
she cannot help tracing a shade or two 
more of empressemeni than had been the 
case in her three former seasons. Nor is 
it only the business of pleasure that now 
makes Miss Latimer s life as full as it had 

VOL. II. 23 

34 Second Thoughts. 

once been empty. Burnet has been as 
good as his word ; he has found her work. 
It is true that the idea of the Sunday 
evening class for drunkards has, by tacit 
consent on both sides, been abandoned ; 
but its place has been taken by other 
schemes as useful and less injudicious. 
He is apparently not much more afraid of 
work for her, than he is for himself. 

In tracing up, following out, and exam- 
ining into the many cases of distress which 
daily come before him, among the poor 
whom he sees gratis from nine to ten in 
the morning, she has found a vein of 
occupation and interest not likely to be 
soon worked out. Nor is this all. As 
soon as — which is very soon — her acces- 
sion to fortune has become noised abroad 
in the world, there is never a post which 
does not bring her applications from some 
charitable society for help of purse, head, 
or hands. It is on his judgment that she 

Second Thoughts. 35 

has grown implicitly to rely, as to the 
greater or less usefulness of these associa- 
tions ; as to which appeals are to be 
acceded to, and which denied. For her 
part, being large-hearted, and quite 
ignorant of the value of money, she would 
fain say ' Yes ' to them all ; but on this he 
must needs put his veto. If, however, he 
is useful to her, so is she also to him ; as 
she sometimes tells herself with a throb of 
pride. Does not she, beside all her other 
work, carry flowers to the patients in his 
Ward at the Hospital.'* Does not she help 
him with the Shakespeare readings that he 
gets up among the convalescents ? Does 
not she talk with gracious fluency to the 
awkward medical students whose welfare 
he is so anxious to promote, and whom he 
so often asks to dinner? Once he had 
almost, nay, half told her that she was his 
right hand ; and though he had stopped 
himself in time, had laboriously explained 



36 Second Thoughts. 

away and eaten his words, yet, that they 
had once been hovering on his lips, she 
would maintain with her last breath. 

This is the sunny side of the picture ; 
it is vain to deny that there is also a shady 
one. It is useless to disguise that-^— so far 
from the discovery of the oneness of their 
aims in the main having produced entire 
harmony in the details — their first quarrel 
on the subject of Gillian's good works has 
not been by any means their last. It has 
been followed by many others, not by any 
means inferior in acrimony to the first; 
garnished with quite as many sour looks 
and biting words. Gillian has always 
taken the high ground of principle : Burnet 
has always remained on the flat level 
of plain common sense, and they have 
both invariably ended by losing their tem- 

Their discords have mostly arisen from a 
determined tendency on the part of Miss 

Second Thoughts. 2>7 

Latimer to trample with lofty disdain on 
the minor conventionalities of life ; to travel 
when quite alone, by preference and on 
principle — all Gillian's follies are matters 
of principle — in omnibuses and penny 
steamboats; to thrust herself — strong in 
the consciousness of her own lofty recti- 
tude — into equivocal situations, which a 
less innocent woman would have shunned. 
It is from this proclivity, coming into 
collision with Burnet's resolute determina- 
tion to draw her back, and keep her, as 
long as his control over her shall last, in 
the safe beaten path of use and wont, that 
most of their many jars are born. Most, 
but not all. There is another and far 
more unpleasant cause of disunion between 
them. Whether it be through the fatuous 
vanity, of mankind, that hurries, however 
warned, to its doom, or through some 
defect in her own power of making her- | 
self understood, certain it is that three or 

38 Second Thoughts, 

four men have already this season had the 
misfortune to be refused by Miss Latimer. 
Specially has she been teased by Chaloner. 
She has been compelled to hear the whole 
of the Friihlings Gruss, and has discovered 
with much surprise and more disgust that 
the * sick- sweet beryl eyes ' apostrophised 
in that luscious lyric are none other than 
her own perfectly healthy and extremely 
angry grey ones. He has braved the pain 
caused him by the Burnet upholstery so 
far as to pay her several more morning 
visits; occasionally, during them, drawing 
from his pocket a piece of high art 
cretonne, with which to revive his eyes, 
when he feels that the India-rubber plant 
and the loud cacpet are growing too much 
for him. 

On each occasion, as ill-luck will have it, 
Burnet has blundered in upon them, and 
has found him either stretching his 
amorous length of flaccid limb on the 

Second Thoughts. 39 

rug at her feet, or dismally poised on 
a small stool at her knee, or sorrowfully- 
warbling to his mandolin over against 
her. And as in this world actions will 
always be held to speak louder than 
words, not all her subsequent scoffs at 
his expense, not all the jeers indus- 
triously sown along her after-conversation, 

can avail to remove from Burnet's mind 
the impression that his is not only a 
welcome, but an invited presence. 

Although he says nothing, her guardian's 
eyes and manner plainly convey to Gillian 
that to her he attributes the blame of all 
her catastrophes. In addition to the many 
grave failings with which he has already 
credited her, she now feels that in his 
own mind he has branded her as a 
hardened flirt. 

This discovery has cost her many bitter 
tears, and in wakeful hours of night and 
unrest, she has often straitly questioned 

40 Second Thoughts. 

herself as to whether there be indeed any 
truth in this mute accusation ; whether 
now and again she may not indeed have 
been tempted to make others feel the 
pangs of despised love ; the pinch of 
that pain which has of late grown to be 
her daily portion. For Nemesis, slow- 
footed but sure, has overtaken Gillian. 

At the feet of the man whom, five 
months ago, she had waved from her 
with words that insulted, and insinuations 
that outraged, she has now laid her proud 
heart ; nor does he — which is worse — 
show any least intention of picking it 

Through fourteen weeks — how long to 
look forward to ! — how short in retrospect 
— she has closely watched his manner of 
life. His good qualities she has learnt 
by heart, and his weaknesses she knows 
as well as — perhaps better — than she does 
her own. She has been a daily witness 

Second Thoughts. 41 

of his energy, his thoroughness, his clear- 
headed, large-hearted love of his fellows. 
She has watched his struggles against the 
irritability of his temper when over-tired, 
harassed, or disappointed ; and his dis- 
proportionate remorse when he has given 
way to it. 

She has seen his great patience with 
his sister, his tenderness to her who gives 
him no tenderness back again — having, 
indeed, none to give — his resolved en- 
durance of her whims and freaks, even 
when they clash and jar most with his 
own dearest schemes and ideas. Her 
sniff, her screeching parrot, her delusions 
as to her own want of appetite and general 
fragility ; the invariability of the way in 
which she unhesitatingly makes his con- 
venience curtsey to hers — these are small 
things. Far, far worse than any of these — 
far harder for him to endure are her 
obstinately unwise benevolences ; the hap- 

42 Second Thoughts. 

hazard charity that gathers round her an 
army of able-bodied vagabonds and robust 
impostors. But yet he does it. 

The end of May has come ; and it is 
perhaps as well for Gillian — though she 
is far from thinking so-^that the throng 
of engagements it brings has entirely put 
an end to those short evening tite-a-tHes 
which at one time had become common 
between her and her guardian. It may 
be, it most probably is, mere accident, 
but it certainly comes about that if ever 
she has a free evening, he is sure in his 
turn to be either professionally or socially 

To-night they both dine out. They 
set off for their different destinations at 
the same moment — Miss Latimer is to 
pick up her chaperon en route — nor can 
Gillian avoid overhearing the address 
given by Burnet to his servant. It is 
that of the house for which the Tarltons 

Second Thoughts. 43 

have lately exchanged their rooms at 
Garland's Hotel. 

Gillian has long given up inquiring into 
the number of times that Burnet dines 
with the Tarltons ; in fact, she tries as 
much as possible to' avoid hearing it : and 
though, whenever they see each other, 
Sophia keeps her anxiously advertised of 
the frequency of her meetings with Dr. 
Burnet and the progress of their friend- 
ship, yet, as the advancing season has 
given her a good opportunity for retiring 
gradually and unobserved from the Tarlton 
intimacy, this happens seldomer than 
might be supposed. 

To-night, however, the Tarltons have 
a small semi-musical At Home, at which 
they have, with an irresistible urgency of 
affection, insisted on her appearing. She 
had far fainer not. Her spirits are jaded, 
and she tells herself that she is certain 
to see and hear words and looks to 

44 Second Thoughts. 

which she had much rather shut eyes 
and ears. But it cannot be. Nothing 
short of explaining the true reason of her 
disinclination could save her from their 

So, at about eleven o'clock, she finds 
herself entering their drawing-room. It 
is filling fast, and an unlucky young 
gentleman, who, in an evil hour for 
himself, has been induced to promise to 
recite a poem in the Dorsetshire dialect 
called 'Come Who-am,' and who is now, 
with a view to that purpose, standing 
beside the piano, with a row of bedroom 
candlesticks on the floor before him to 
represent footlights, has been already 
several times obliged by the bustle made 
by fresh arrivals to suspend his exertions 
and begin all over again. To Gillian it 
is always afterwards doubtful whether 
he ever gets beyond the exordium : * A 
poem in the Dorsetshire dialect, "Come 

Second Thoughts. 45 

Who-am." ' That is, at least, all that she 
ever hears of it. 

He is followed by a professional singer, 
who is listened to with the respectful 
attention, always paid by the British 
public to anything that is known or 
surmised to have cost a good deal of \ 

Miss Latimer has found a seat, and is 
taking advantage of the silence imposed by 
the song, to seek out, with her eyes, her 
acquaintance among the throng. At least, 
that is the way in which she would have 
explained her occupation, had she been 
questioned about it. It is not, however, 
until the end of the Aria, that she dis- 
covers the special two whom she seeks. 
Far off, in an adjoining room, which, 
owing to its distance from the musicians 
and from a tiny foreign princekin who is 
the star and lion of the evening, is far less 
crowded than this one, intermittently seen 

46 Second Thoughts. 

between the wide-flung folding-doors, she 
finds them. She has a distinct though 
distant view of Sophia's face, quite distinct 
enough to see that it is flushed, animated, 
radiant. Of Burnet her vision is less com- 
plete ; a continued succession of bobbing 
heads, shifting figures, glancing diamonds, 
conspire to hide him from her; only an 
occasional glimpse serves to verify the fact 
that the dark head bent in interested 
attention to the eager voluble girl is none 
other than his. She is still yielding to the 
disagreeable fascination of peeping under 
people's arms and over their shoulders at 
the unwelcome spectacle, when her atten- 
tion is claimed by Anne, who, not having 
been able to gather round her any of her 
own special ministering spirits, is not in 
the best of humours. After a few pettish 
complaints of the heat of the room, and 
the dulness of this particular form of 
entertainment, she asks : 

Second Thoughts. 47 

* How do you think Sophia is looking 
to-night ?' 

* How do I think Sophia is looking ?* 
repeats Gillian, yielding — thus taken 
suddenly and unawares — to an unjustifiable 
access of ill-humour ; * why, extremely 
plain, as she always does.* 

* That is what I say4' cries Anne, 
warmly. * How well you always express 
yourself; and now that she has taken it 
into her head to be clever, that she is 
always standing up on her hind legs so to 
speak !' 

* Sophia is certainly nothing if not intelli- 
gent,' rejoins Gillian, sarcastically ; and then, 
bitterly ashamed of her own unhandsome 
spitefulness, she rises hastily and turns to 
greet one of the many admirers who are 
always lying in wait to pounce upon 

I n this case it is Chaloner, who, unwarned 
by the fate of the Dorsetshire genius, has 

48 • Second Thoughts. 

been reciting Rossetti's 'Blessed Damosel/ 
and has been leaning 

* From, the gold bar of Heaven * 

so far over the bedroom candles as to 
have hardly breath left to ask for the 
encomiums he has come to receive. Being 
off her guard and preoccupied by her own 
emotions, she may possibly throw more 
cordiality into her manner than, warned 
by her late disasters, has of late been the 
case with her. At least she conjectures 
that it must be so when she finds the 
present sufferer urging upon her with a 
sorrowful inveteracy a request already 
oft repeated, to join the Tarltons in a 
visit to that studio which he has lately 
set on foot, in order that those sister 
arts in which he has attained about equal 
eminence, may run hand in hand. 

She is anxiously warding off his melan- 
choly importunities, when Sophia, passing 

Second Thoughts. 49 

hastily by, catches sight of and at once 
stops to speak to her. 

* I am off — out of earshot, if possible !* 
she says, shrugging. * Can you believe it } 
Anne is going to sing " On the Blue 
Alsatian Mountains !" ' 

* And why should not she ?' 

* IVhy should not she ! Did you ever 
hear of such presumption i^ — immediately 
after Blank and Blank ! At all events, I 
am determined not to stay and hear 
one of my nearest relations expose her- 
self !' 

She half moves away, but, apparently 
bethinking herself, comes back. 

* We shall meet to-morrow !' she says 
cheerfully ; * it is settled that I am to 
lunch with you. He is going to take me 
over King s Hospital.* 

* He ! — who ?* says Gillian, obstinately 
obtuse, but paling a little. 

* Did I say he f with a slightly con- 
VOL. II. 24 

50 Second Thoughts, 

scious smile ; * how stupid ! Of course 
I meant Dr. Burnet. I have never been 
over one of the London hospitals ; he 
is to explain the whole working of it to 
me. It is a subject that interests me 

* Has not it rather newly come to you T 
rejoins Gillian, with a grim smile. * I 
never remember any signs of your de- 
veloping such a taste at home.' 

'At home I was always thwarted 
when I tried to strike out a line of 
my own/ replies Sophia, loftily ; * here, 
I begin to feel my footing freer. A 
demain P 

Divided between smiles of complacency 
at herself, and her future, and righteous 
ire at her sister s fatuity, she vanishes 
from view. 

* It is an engagement then,* says 
Gillian, turning with a sudden laugh, and 
an eye-flash to her petitioner, who, though 

Second Thoughts. 51 

now almost hopeless of success, has re- 
mained standing, like a long pale willow 
wand, beside her, ' at five o'clock to- 


THE morrow has come, and with It 
luncheon-time, and the Tarltons. 
Both girls arrive, though only one is to 
take part in the expedition that is the 
motive of their appearance. Love for 
Gillian, and a suspicion that her sister 
had rather she had stayed away, have 
been the mixed inducements that have 
brought the other. 

Luncheon is just over, and the brougham 
has set forth on its way. The two re- 
maining girls watch its departure from the 

Second Thoughts. 53 

window of the dining-room, which they 
have not yet left. 

* Do not you call it rather a strong 
measure ?* says Anne, in a confidential 
voice. * I am sure if I were to take a 
tUe-a-tHe drive with a bachelor in his 
brougham, everybody would hold up their 
hands in horror — I should be drummed 
out of society ; but I suppose in the case 
of a doctor all laws are suspended.' 

* And to the claims of philanthropy 
every minor consideration must give way, 
says Gillian, with a bitter little laugh, 
having not yet got over the sight of 
Sophia's beaming face and waving hand, 
as she was borne away. 

* Did not she look elated ?' pursues 
Anne, ill-naturedly. 'Some people are 
easily pleased, and after all he has never 
paid her any real attention ; not ' — with 
a superior smile — * what you and I would 
call attention.* 

54 Second Thoughts, 

Gillian does not answer, except by a 
slight flush of pleasure, of which she is 
thoroughly ashamed, and a moment after- 
wards changes the subject. 

At a quarter to six that afternoon, 
Miss Latimer's victoria draws up at the 
entrance to that block of studios of which 
Mr. Chaloner's forms one. She has taken 
pains to be late, so that there may be 
no doubt as to Mrs. Tarlton and Anne, 
who are to meet her there, having had 
plenty of time to arrive before her. To 
tell truth, she has begun heartily to 
repent of her last night's concession. 
She has even gone so far as to solicit 
Miss Burnet for her company and coun- 
tenance, but has been met with the candid 
and point-blank denial which she might 
have expected. 

* I am much obliged to you, but I am 
no judge of pictures : I had far rather 

Second Thoughts. 55 

Chaloner himself comes to help her 
from her carriage, his hair flowing in a 
long fair fell over his shoulders, and a 
lotus lily in one pale hand. 

*This is too utterly sweet!' he says in 
a low and tremulous voice, not holding 
out his hand, for the votaries of the 
Higher Cult do not shake hands ; they 
are too much in silent sympathy with each 
other to need this Philistine expression 
of welcome. She springs out without his 

* Are they here T she asks hastily, 
rushing headlong into his poet's greeting. 
* Have Mrs. and Miss Tarlton come 

yet r 

* They will be here soon — too soon \ 
he answers sadly, leading her in. 

As the door of the studio closes upon 
her, and she perceives that, for the 
moment at least, she is the only guest, 
her heart sinks. 

56 Second Thoughts, 

'They have treated me very ill/ she 
says, with an accent of vexation ; * they 
promised to be punctual ! Thank you, 
no/ as he places a seat for her, and 
offers her a peacock fan ; * I had rather 
stand/ Then with a slight increase of 
affability, as she catches a glimpse of her 
own image, sombre and pouting, in a 
Venetian mirror — * I mean I had rather 
walk about and see your things/ 

At once he is ready with pensive ob- 
sequiousness to comply, and for the next 
ten minutes Gillian, absent-minded and 
uneasy, strays about among dead- gold 
screens, sodden blurred hangings, Japan 
tea-pots, and wry -necked Byzantine 

On easels stand various pictures in 
different stages of finish : all, however 
variously named, being representations — 
either alone or multiplied by several — of 
the same livid, dislocated woman, the 

Second Thoughts. 57 

same woman, carrot-headed, thumb-nosed, 
sunk-chested — ahnost always backed by 
sunflowers, and invariably swaddled in 
unwholesome draperies. All are baptised 
by the names of the beautiful goddess 
and youthhood of Greece. Shades of 
Cytherea and Hylas, pardon ! 

Before almost all, as before an altar, a 
great white lily stands in a large blue 
vase. As they come to a stop before 
one last head, even more touzled and 
apparently further sunk in consumption 
than any of the previous ones, Chaloner 
makes a reverential pause. 

* This is the Master s T he says with 
bated breath ; * is not it entirely precious } 
I daily offer fresh flowers before it ; it is 
Amor Dolorosus !* 

* Amor P she cries scornfully ; * Love ! 
I thought it was cholera !* 

Chaloner shudders a little, as if a goose 
had walked over his grave, though cer- 

58 Second Thoughts, 

tainly so ignoble a comparison would never 
occur to his mind. 

* I think/ he says, in a wounded voice, 
* that you do not quite follow the Master^s 
meaning ; perhaps it is too intense for 
you ?* 

* Perhaps/ she answers contemptuously, 
turning away ; * at the best of times I 
have not much opinion of dolorous 
love r 

* And yet,' he says mournfully, * it can 
never be truly rhythmical and sweet unless 
it is laved with the chrism of tears !* 

As he ends, there is a break in his 
voice ; and she finds with horror that he 
is sinking on his faint knees on the 
Persian carpet beside her. At the same 
moment the studio-door opens hastily, 
and a man enters quickly, crying cheer- 
fully : 

* I have only five minutes to spare ; 
but you have so often asked me to look 

Second Thoughts. 59 

in upon you, and, as I have some patients 
in this direction, I thought I might take 
you in my way. Oh f— catching sight of 
the tableau so clearly not intended for 
any third pair of eyes, though even now 
he does not instantly recognise the back 
of his ward's bonnet, and his voice 
growing suddenly aghast — * I — I — see I — 
must have mistaken the studio. I — I — 
beg to apologise ! What T as the bonnet 
veers slowly round towards him — 'Miss 
Latimer !* 

There is a terrible pause, during which 
Chaloner manages to slide to his feet 
again, and Burnet's fiery eyes remain 
fastened, with an expression which she 
would hardly like to qualify, on the face — 
apparently made all of poppies^-of his 
luckless charge. 

* Do you happen to have seen anything 
of the Tarltons? — I mean Mrs. Tarlton 
and Anne V she stammers at last — 


60 Second Thoughts, 

it is so likely, in his transit in his 
brougham from sick-room to sick-room, 
that he should. * They were to have met 
me here to-day ; but they have played me 

He does not appear to think this query 
worthy of an answer; at least he gives 
none. Only his glance changes its direction 
a little, and she sees it taking in all the 
details — which she knows will be most 
abhorrent to him — of her surroundings : 
the sickly virgins and diseased Aphro- 
dites ; the votive pots ; and lastly, the 
fragile teacups and sugared rose-leaves 
prepared for her refection, and clearly 
betokening that she either has made or 
means to make some considerable stay. 
At his unmannerly ignoring of her civil 
question, and at the tyranny of his eyes, 
her spirit rises. He shall see that she is 
not of the stuff of which Griseldas are 

Second Thoughts, 6i 

* They have clearly forgotten their en« 
gagement/ she says, turning to Chaloner, 
and speaking with composure, though her 
cheeks do not cool. * I think I had better 
go home/ 

* I quite agree with you,* says Burnet, 
though it is not he whom she has 
addressed, in a very low voice — so low 
as to be only audible to herself; and as 
she leaves the studio, he follows her with 
the visibly ostentatious air of implying 
that she is not again to be trusted 

With silent morosity, he hands her into 
her victoria, and she drives off. 

She had hoped that they would not 
be called upon again to meet on that 
day — that their next encounter might 
be deferred until both had had time to 
cool down ; for under the unjust and 
tyrannical suspicion of his look her own 

62 Second Thoughts, 

spirit has risen ; but unluckily it turns out 

Both are still at boiling-point — in fact, 
by brooding on their several wrongs, the 
fever of each temper is sensibly heightened 
— when they unfortunately meet acci- 
dentally on the stairs. She is running 
down, dressed for dinner, to her brougham, 
and he is running up, when they come 
together on the landing. She fully 
expects him to stand aside and let her 
go by ; but instead he bars her pas- 

* May I speak to you for five minutes T 
he asks in a severe voice. 

* Is it anything of much importance i^' 
she asks, summoning up a nonchalant 
air. * Will not it do as well to- 
morrow }' 

* If you do not mind, I had rather say 
what I have to say to-night.' 

She makes no further objection, but 

Second Thoughts, 63 

leads the way into the drawing-room, 
and he, following her, shuts the door. 

Apparently, however, what he has to 
say is not easy to begin upon, for during 
a few minutes an awkward silence reigns. 
Gillian is firmly resolved not to help 
him ; and, walking to the window, looks 
out, and presently remarks in a careless 
tone : 

* The brougham is there ; I shall be 

* I cannot help it if you are,' he answers 
suddenly, gaining words. * I could not 
let the night pass over our heads — I could 
not reconcile it to my conscience — without 
asking you for an explanation — without 
remonstrating — without warning you \ 

* Without warning me f she repeats, 
turning from the window, and facing him 
in ireful majesty, while her eyes blaze, 
and the Mary lilies on her breast tremble 
and shake with the beatings of her angry 

64 Second Thoughts. 

heart — * against what ? You must, if you 
please, be more lucid, if you wish me to 
understand you/ 

* If it were not for the unnatural position 
we occupy towards each other,' he says, 
taking up from and again throwing down 
on the table a book in passionate, fidgety 
irritation, * it would of course be no 
business of mine ; but as it is, my duty 
to you compels me to ask, whether the 
explanation given by you of your presence 
in Mr. Chaloners studio this afternoon, 
and to which I noticed that you gave 
utterance very hesitatingly and lamely, 
was the true one ?' 

* Of course not,* she answers with cutting 
scorn ; * why do you ask ? Of course it 
was a pure invention/ 

He looks at her uneasily, his forehead 
wrinkled with vexation and doubt; but 
yet apparently his worst apprehension is 

Second Thoughts. 65 

*You must own/ he says, still very 
hotly, though in a voice that is rather 
less inquisitorial and more conciliatory, 

* that thei situation in which I found you 
was one that required some explana- 

* And 1/ she says haughtily, her tem- 
per waxing worse as his grows better, 

* for my part, think that it was your un- 
invited intrusion into Mr. Chaloner's 
studio which requires explanation and 

* I have already explained to you/ he 
cries vehemently, his eyes flashing at the 
calm insolence of her look — * I explained 
at once that it was a pure mistake ! I 
had long promised to look in some day 

on my friend ; and, in the hurry of 

the moment, I mistook the one studio 
for the other/ 

* It was a very singular error,* she says 

VOL. II. 25 

66 Second Thoughts. 

with a sneer. * Mr. Chaloner s name is 
very plainly printed over his door.* 

*You may imply if you choose that I 
am telling falsehoods/ he says violently ; 
then, mastering himself with an untold 
effort, he breaks off, and after a while 
says almost quietly, though the heaving 
of his chest and the quiver of his sen- 
sitive nostrils plainly tell of the storm 
within, * I daresay you think that I 
stretch my authority further than is justi- 

* I think,' she says, regarding him with 
an air of unflinching steady displeasure, 
*if you ask my candid opinion, that the 
situation is one which will not bear a 
much greater strain upon it.' 

* You are trying to put me in the 
wrong,' he says, galled past speaking 
by the frigid superiority of her tone ; 
' but you know as well as I do that this 
is not the first time by many that I 

Second Thoughts. 67 

have been reluctantly compelled to reason 
with you. I do you the justice to say 
that I believe your intention is harm- 

* You are very good to admit even 
so much/ she replies with an ironical 
bow, and an intentionally exasperating 

* But the world does not see the in- 
tention/ pursues he, trying not to heed 
her — trying to resist the infuriation bred 
in his vexed soul by her voice and 
eyes ; * the world sees only the outward 
actions, and yours are * 

* You had better not finish your sen- 
tence,' she cries, dropping her sarcastic 
tone, and breaking out into unveiled 
indignation, as she walks hastily to the 
door ; then turns, and with a parting 
glare at him : * Let us each keep to our 
opinion of the other. I, for my part, shall 
always think that you have greatly ex- 


68 Second Thoughts. 

ceeded your office ; and you, if you please, 
may continue to believe that I am ignorant 
and unmindful of the commonest rules of 


ANEW morning is born, fresh and 
brave even here in London. 
Neither of these adjectives apply to the 
condition of Miss Latimer. A night of 
restlessness and repentance has been 
followed by a morning of languor and 
resentment. In the night, it is our sins 
against others that have the greatest 
prominence in our minds ; when morning 
dawns, their misdeeds against us assert 
their sway. 

Incapable of occupation, averse from 

yo Second Thoughts. 

the wholesome sunlight, unstrung and 
ill-humoured, she lies on a couch in her 
own sitting-room, with rose blinds lowered, 
as great a contrast to the stirring healthy- 
Gillian of every-day life as can well be 
imagined. Nor has a lengthy visit from 
the younger Tarlton sister at all contri- 
buted to restore her amiability. Against 
the prerogatives of their old-established 
intimacy she has long revolted in spirit ; 
but never have they excited such re- 
bellion in her mind as on the present 

She has received the excuses of Anne 
for her yesterday's breach of faith — 
excuses which begin and end apparently 
in her having started game of her own — 
with glacial coldness. She has twice 
withdrawn her hand from being fondled ; 
she has three times complained of head- 
ache ; and at length it has dawned even 
upon the not very acute perceptions of 

Second Thoughts. 71 

her companion that something is gravely 

*Why, you are really vexed, I see/ 
she says, an expression of genuine, if 
shallow, regret clouding the insignificant 
prettiness of her face ; * I am sure you 
need not be. As to the impropriety* — 
with a consoling accent — * what was it 
in comparison of Sophia s ?* 

* Sophia is nothing to me,* replies 
Gillian irritably, beginning to pull to 
pieces a spray of lily of the valley that 
stands in a glass at her elbow, ruthlessly 
and quite unconsciously breaking off each 
little odorous bell. * I cannot make her 
conduct the rule of mine.* 

* I wonder what they talked about,* 
pursues Anne, her frivolous mind flying 
off at a tangent from her own offence 
and Gillian's wrongs. * I should not have 
an idea what subjects to choose with a 
man of that class. I tried to persuade 

72 Second Thoughts. 

her to tell me, but she only bridled and 
looked wise/ 

Gillian's lily lies in little shreds in her 
lap : that is her only rejoinder. 

* Of course he is not quite in our own 
rank of life/ pursues Anne, in happy un- 
consciousness, leaning back in her chair, 
and smelling a rose ; * and I daresay 
you will laugh at me for saying so, but 
I declare I think he is too good for 

However, even Anne*s consolations 
and speculations come to an end at last, 
though they leave her friend in sensibly 
worse case of mind and body than they 
found her. 

It is one of Gillian's now weekly days 
^for visiting the hospital. Never in her 
life has she felt less inclined for even 
the modified form of good works involved 
in sitting by a clean bed in an airy room, 
reading aloud a moral story-book to 

Second Thoughts. 73 

attentive and interested listeners. But 
she conquers her disinclination, or, to 
speak more accurately, does not allow it 
to influence her actions ; and at the usual 
hour sets off, her brougham filled with 
the early summer flowers that have come 
in such welcome plenty. 

All the long way through the streets to 
Lincoln's Inn Fields she lies back, staring 
dully out in dejected ill-humour. It is 
not till the hospital's great dark bulk 
rises before her that she begins to rouse 

And yet, as two minutes later she passes 
down the long wards, through whose high 
windows the May wind is freely blowing, 
her hands full of Gueldres roses, and in 
friendly talk with a still-faced Sister, 
whose dark blue dress proclaims her to 
belong to that higher grade of Sister- 
hood which has devoted its whole life 
to the work, in contradistinction to the 

74 Second Thoughts. 

grey Sisters who come in for only six or 
nine months at a time — you would not 
say that much could ail the soul that dwelt 
in that blooming body. 

She does not stop till she reaches the 
pink and white dimity-draped cots, and 
the great rocking-horse, prancing in eternal 
gallop, that announces the children's 
ward. All still and good they lie. There 
is not one sound of crying or wailing, 
though of several it has to be said with 
a pitying sigh that they can never be 
better ; and yet even these doomed ones, 
for the most part, look at rest and 

One sad-faced boy, indeed, lies back, 
with eyes half-closed, heavily breathing. 
He is only six years old. His parents 
hired him out to acrobats, who have 
twisted and wrenched his poor little 
frame, till now that compassionate death 
has called him away from them. 

Second Thoughts. 75 

One small soul is sitting up in bed, 
bright and cheerful, in a'^sort of strait- 
waistcoat of plaster-of-Paris. Hers is a 
bad case of curvature of the spine ; and 
if she were not in this odd panoply, 
would have to be always lying on her 

Another tiny creature has lately had 
her leg cut off. She is staring round- 
eyed at the stranger, forgetting for the 
moment the clover-head that is grasped 
in her baby hand, and the daisies strewn 
over her small counterpane. 

Over another bed they see a man, whose 
back is turned towards them, stooping ; a 
man dressed in all the severity of medical 
black. As they have approached him 
before he is aware, they are able to dis- 
cover the nature of his occupation. It 
is no feeling of pulse, nor asking for 
symptoms. His is a more arduous 
employ than either. He is trying to 

76 Second Thoughts. 

set on their legs the rickety inmates of 
a Noah's Ark. Even when he perceives 
them, he does not leave off. Perhaps he 
is glad of the excuse for keeping his 
face bent, and partially hidden. They 
have not met since that last and worst 
quarrel of theirs over-night. 

Gillian has not at all made up her mind 
as to how, or in what spirit, she shall 
greet him, or receive his greeting, if he 
gives her any, nor has by any means 
expected to be so soon and suddenly 
called upon for a decision. 

The Sister is called away, and Miss 
Latimer remains standing irresolute and 
in silence beside the cot, watching his 
evolutions, in which she by-and-by becomes 
herself absorbingly interested. 

Presently he looks up at her with a 
rather awkward smile, and says : 

* Shem will stand, and Ham will stand, 
but Japhet will not stand.* 

As he SDeaks, he raises himself to h:s 
feet, and stands beside her; Japhet in 
one hand, and a h\-aena in the other. An 
answering sm!!e breaks like morning light 
over her face. 

* I will make them all stand/ she cries 
resolutely, kneeling down ; * not only them, 
but their wives. I will set the whole 
of creation on its legs, or die in the 

No further word is spoken until this 
feat is accomplished. WTien the whole 
of the beasts, both clean and unclean, are 
promenading in pairs across the quilt, 
she looks up radiant ; then, with a sudden 
impulse : 

* We are friends ?* she says, half 
stretching out her hand ; and then, in 
sudden remembrance of his never having 
clasped it, drawing it back. 

* That is for you to decide/ he answers^ 
with emotion. 

78 Second Thoughts. 

She is silent a moment, still kneeling, 
her look lifted to"' the sunbeams streaming 
in at the high windows, and a tender 
warmth about her heart. 

* I wish we did not quarrel so much,' 
she says presently, very softly ; * it is dis- 
agreeable to quarrel/ 

* But it is pleasant to make friends 
again,* he says in a hurried, low voice, 
as if the words were forced out of him 
against his will. 

She makes no rejoinder; only she still 
kneels, still looks at the sunbeam, a 
sudden splendid joy making her proud 
eyes moist. When next she looks round, 
he is gone. 


THE season has nearly run its length ; 
only its sultry fag-end is left. The 
streets have their suffocating August smell 
of hot pavement and worn-out air. Every 
day greater numbers of laden cabs set 
towards the railway stations ; towards 
every point of the compass the great 
city is emptying out her children. ' 

It is the ist of ^ugust. the day on which 
Gillian Latimer attains her twenty-first 
birthday, and comes into absolutely un- 
fettered, unguardianed, untrusteed pos- 
session of her ;^2oo,ooo. The five 

8o Second Thoughts. 

months, the twenty-five weeks, the 
hundred and seventy-five days that in 
prospect she had called eternal, are now 
proved to have been but a very little 
parcel of time's great whole. Not that 
to her they have gone quickly. The 
rapidity or slowness with which any 
portion of our lives passes, has, what- 
ever the popular belief may say to the 
contrary, no proportion to the happiness 
or unhappiness of that period. A time 
of full and varied occupation seems, in 
retrospect, long, however pleasant ; and 
a time of monotonous leisure seems short, 
however painful. 

Of leisure Gillian has certainly had, of 
late, none. Pleasure and business have 
successfully combined to rob her of it. 
Whether they have given her much 
enjoyment in its place, she is often in- 
clined to doubt. 

This morning she has risen early, for 

Second Thoughts. 8i 

the journey up to North-country Marlowe 
which Is before her is long, and it is to 
be preceded by a farewell interview with 
her guardian. 

As she sits, coolly wrapped in a white 
peignoir by her window, with undressed 
hair blown back by the wind, that even 
at this early hour is hot and sick, looking 
out with sad leave-taking eyes on the 
still drowsy town, she is running over in 
her mind the incidents of the past month, 
separating their good from their bad, 
sifting their chaff from their wheat. 

In this moment of depression, the chaff 
seems to have largely predominated. She 
no longer seeks to disguise from herself 
what it is that in her appraisement causes 
one moment to be reckoned as weighty 
grain, and another as light husk. On 
some fair minutes indeed she can look 
back, that even now, in the thinking on 
them, make her smile ; minutes when, at 

VOL. II. 26 

82 Second Thoughts. 

a sudden flash, his eyes and heart and 
understanding seem to stand face to face 
with and embrace hers. 

But they were only minutes, followed 
by hours of painstakingly increased cold- 
ness ; days of separation ; half-hours of 
unkind and un-Christian bickering; while 
on her side, through all the woof of her 
life, there has run a weary thread of 
growing jealousy that has disfigured and 
marred all its texture. To the task of 
freeing herself insensibly from the yoke 
of the Tarlton intimacy, she has, in 
all these months, proved herself wholly 

Now, on this ist of August, she is, much 
against her will, far further advanced in 
their confidence, far more liable to their 
caresses, than she was five months ago. 
She has been the vainly restive recipient 
of Anne's plaints about a succession of 
unfortunate, and — if you credit her sister's 

Second Thoughts. 83 

eager testimony — wholly one-sided attach- 
ments ; also the depositary of her specula- 
tions as to Sophia's prospects. 

* Do you think that father will ever give 
his consent ?' she asks one day, after 
having been for half an hour stretching 
Miss Latimer on the rack of her con- 
jectures and hopes ; * not/ with a laugh, 
'that I am at all sure that he will ever 
be asked for it. Of course if it were I, 
he would not hear of it ; but then, I 
have always been his favourite. Perhaps 
he may be glad of any opportunity of 
establishing Sophia; you know,' with 
anxious emphasis, 'that it is the first she 
has ever had.' 

* So you have told me several times,* 
replies Gillian, irritably. 

Her tone closes the conversation, and 
rids her for the time of her gadfly ; but 
only that her thoughts may wearily run 
undisturbed in the track into which Anne 

26 — 2 

84 Second Thoughts. 

vainly imagines she has with difficulty, 
and for the moment, turned them. And 
it is thus, in this condition of unrest and 
uncertainty, of cold strong doubt and 
pale weak hope, that, on this sultry summer 
morning, she is leaving the matter on 
which of late it has seemed that her very 
being, all her strong young life, has come 
to hinge. 

The almanack no longer hangs before 
the bed ; but that is not because it has 
served its purpose, and that the tale of 
the days it was meant to mark is now 
full. Weeks ago it was pulled down, 
angrily torn to shreds, and consigned to 
the waste-paper basket. 

All through the trivial daily round of 
yesterday, she has kept saying, * It is 
the last time.' She caught herself saying 
it with pathos even of Miss Burnet's 
sniff, to which she silently listened last 
night, as that lady lay after dinner in her 

Second Thoughts. 85 

arm-chair by the window, looking out in 
drowsy content on the passing cabs and 

She was even constrained to give utter- 
ance to her melancholy little formula, 
when, according to her now invariable 
custom of spending the evening at home, 
she poured out and carefully carried to 
her hostess her cup of tea. 

* It is the last time,* she says in a choked 

* So it is,' replies the other, phlegmati- 

This is not much of an encouragement 
towards pursuing the conversation in a 
vein of sentiment, and Gillian's pensive 
generality as to the painfulness of last 
times is still hovering unspoken on her 
lips, when Miss Burnet's next speech 
keeps it for ever unsaid. 

* Dear me,' she says, matter-of-factly, 
looking out at the glooming street, * only 

86 Second Thoughts. 

the 31st of July, and how the evenings are 
beginning to draw in already !* 

There is a silence of ten minutes ; the 
room grows darker, and the girFs heart 
fuller. By-and-by her pent feelings must 
have their way in speech. Were she 
alone, she would cry aloud to herself or 
to the chairs and tables. It is perhaps 
with as little hope of a return that she 
now addresses herself to Miss Burnet. 

' I wonder,' she says in a half-choked 
voice, * whether I shall ever in future see 
anything of you both T 

* You will see plenty of me, if you 
choose,' replies the elder woman, with 
stolid common sense. ' As you know, I am 
not much of a gad-about ; I am generally 
to be found if anyone takes the trouble 
to look for me. As to John, I do not 
suppose that you will see much more of 
him, but that,* with a dry laugh, * will not 
break either of your hearts, I imagine.* 

Second Thoughts. 87 

To her departure her guardian himself 
has not alluded more than three times in 
all ; and on neither of those occasions 
has the mention of it been attended by any- 
overt expressions of regret. 

Once, indeed, when in one of their 
moments of amity he was planning in 
the future some small joint action for 
them two, he has pulled himself up sud- 
denly, and said : 

* But you will not be here then/ 

Her ear, attentively listening, has thought 
that it caught the shadow of a sigh ; but 
afterwards she convinces herself that she 
was mistaken. Well, he will have to 
allude to it now at all events, for the 
moment for their final interview — the 
interview at which he is to give up into 
her own hands, now legally capable of 
taking it, the charge of her own person 
and property — has arrived. 

At half-past eight she knocks at the 

88 Second Thoughts. 

door of his consulting-room. The house 
and church clocks strike as she enters. 
With a feeling that is half of relief and 
half a pang, it occurs to her that this 
last talk of theirs cannot be prolonged 
beyond half an hour, as at nine he must 
begin to see his patients. 

He is sitting at his table, apparently 
unoccupied, and rises at her approach. 
It is a paler, calmer Gillian that now 
meets his eyes, than the one, flushed with 
dire confusion at Miss Burnet's malapropos 
queries, whom five months ago he had 
coldly welcomed to his hearth. Careful 
washing and bathing have removed the 
red traces of tears from her grave eyes ; 
but no washing can bring back the bright 
blood that weeping, watching, and an 
aching heart have — at least for the time — 
wholly abolished from her smooth cheeks. 
She does not look nearly so handsome 
as usual to-day, and perhaps that is what 

Second Thoughts. 89 

he is thinking as he stands for a moment 
or two silently opposite her. 

' I must wish you many happy returns 
of your birthday,* he says at last, in a 
low voice ; * believe me, I do it 

She had not expected so kind a greet- 
ing ; she had strung herself up to the 
giving a quiet attention to dry business 
details ; but the touch of feeling in his 
tone goes nigh to undo her. 

* Do not wish me too many !' she says, 
with a nervous laugh. * How do I know 
of what kind they may be T 

Perhaps their souls are sufficiently in 
tune for him to feel how slight a trifle 
f it would take to overset her difficult com- 
posure, for he turns hastily to the table, 
and begins to speak in a quick matter- 
of-fact business voice. 

' You will find in this tin box, with 
your initials on it, all the diff^erent Securi- 

go Second Thoughts, 

ties in which your money is invested, and 
which I have had transferred into your own 
name. There are the Stock Receipts for 
the money in the Consols ; the Debentures 
of the L. and N. W., and the Scrip of 
the Lancashire and Yorkshire, Great 
Northern and Midland Shares ; the 
Mortgage Deeds and Title Deeds of 
Lord Brentwood 's Estate, in which most 
of your remaining money is invested.' 

His dry practical tone gives her back 
her nearly lost mastery over herself, and 
she follows him with intelligence and 
composure. He does not detain her 
attention long. All the main part of the 
necessary business has been transacted 
beforehand with her lawyer. It is only 
for a few last words of explanation and 
counsel — for a final formal delivery into 
her own hands of the government of her 
life, that he has sought this last inter- 

Second Thoughts. 91 

And now it is ended ; at least the 
business part is. Nothing remains but 
for the once enemies to say farewell. 
And how is that to be done } Is she to 
leave his house, ushered out by that same 
cold bow of utter unfriendliness with 
which he received her into it ? At least 
she cannot part from him without giving 
utterance to the little valedictory speech 
that she has been painfully conning all 
through the watches of the sleepless 

* I must not go/ she says, still standing 
by the table, on which her trembling 
fingers rest, 'without thanking you for 
the way in which you have performed 
the painful task that you so conscientiously 
undertook, without asking you to forgive 
me for the elements of discomfort that 
my presence — and my self-will, and — and — 
my want of judgment — and — and — my — 

92 Second Thoughts. 

my unfortunate temper have introduced 
into your life.* 

She has begun glibly enough, if with 
some effort ; but towards the end the 
choking sobs, against which she is vainly 
fighting, render her almost unintelligible. 
Perhaps neither to him is speech at this 
moment very easy, for if the gesture 
that he makes of mute but eager dis- 
claimer and prohibition be no answer, 

he gives her none. 

* I know,' she pursues falteringly, * that 
my failings are the very ones that jar 
most upon you ; often,' with a faint 
smile, *you have been at the end of 
your patience with me. I am glad, for 
your sake, that the strain is now 

* Be glad for yourself, too,* he answers 
low and hurriedly ; * I am sure you have 
good reason to be.' 

Second Thoughts, 93 

Her head sinks down on her breast. 

' For myself I am not glad/ she answers 
almost inaudibly. 

For a moment he looks at her strangely, 
and makes a sudden gesture as of one 
that would stretch out his arms ; his face 
is very white, and his features suffering 
and drawn. At least such is her 
momentary impression, for before she 
can verify it he has turned his back upon 
her, and is looking out in dead silence 
on the sultry street. 

* Now that I am going away,* she con- 
tinues by-and-by, when her throbbing 
heart allows her to speak coherently, 
* I have a small favour to ask of you ; 
perhaps you are not aware that you have 
never shaken hands with me. Possibly 
it has been accident on your part : even 
if it were intentional, I have no right to 
resent it; but now that — I am — agoing — 
away — for ever — now that — the end of 

94 Second Thoughts. 

our unhappy relations has come, I should 
be glad if you could bring yourself to 
give me this proof of pardon — and good- 

At the meaning of her last clause he 
must needs arrive by guessing, for it is so 
strangled by unconquerable tears as to be 
a mere senseless murmur. As the sound 
of her voice ceases he turns slowly, and 
as if with intense reluctance, again to face 

She is still standing by the table as 
when he left her ; only that now the tears 
are racing unchecked down her cheeks, 
her lips quiver piteously, arid she is timidly 
holding out to him the small fair hand, 
of which she has just made him the 
deprecating offer. He takes it in both 
his, and looking at her for one full 
moment with an intense wistfulness, ho 
stoops his head, and reverently kisses 

Second Thoughts. 95 

' God bless you, dear !' he says brokenly 
— ' God Almighty bless you !' 

And so turns suddenly away and leaves 





EVEN in the blessing her he goes, 
and that benediction has an accent 
of resolute farewell and renunciation that, 
all through the long succeeding day's 
travel, chills the heart that the suddenly 
trembling voice and the kind words had 
made leap. 

She does not see him again before her 
departure, nor are her adieux to Miss 
Burnet worthy of the name. What little 
pathos there might have been in them 
is entirely destroyed by the parrot, who 
taltes it into his malignant grey head to 
27 — 2 

TOO Second Thoughts. 

go through all his , worst whoops and 
yells while they are taking place, and thus 
sensibly to abbreviate them. 
. No one comes to the door to see her 
off, to send good-bye smiles after her, 
and she rolls away as ungreeted as she 
had arrived. All through the day, or at 
least the greater part of it, she travels, 
travels along. 

Greatly to her maid's surprise, she rele- 
gates her to a different railway carriage 
from that occupied by herself, the prospect 
of having that respectful spy covertly 
observing her emotions through five or 
six long hours being more than she can 
face. How employed — by what eager 
thoughts — ravaged by what sharp fears — 
wet by what salt drops those dusty hours 
pass — who shall say ? 

At all events it is a calmly smiling pre- 
sentable Gillian that, as the splendid summer 
day droops towards its sumptuous close, 

» • ■ • 

Second Thou^hjrs lAr^'^'^sf. :\: :i.6j 

steps out of the train on the platform of that 
very north-country station of Carnforth, 
which she had last trodden on the stinging- 
January night on which her whole destiny 
now seems to have turned. Whatever 
carking cares, pricking regrets, and uneasy 
hopes may have filled the first hours of 
her journey, at least in the last, the 
pleasure of home-coming has been pre 
dominant. Almost before the station was 
in sight, her head has been out of window 
trying to distinguish which of the dear 
little flock whose tutelar angel she is now 
again going to become, is awaiting her 
with eager tenderness. 

As the train slackens speed, her eye 
expectantly seeks among the vehicles 
gathered outside her own ponies and 
pony-carriage, which she had confidently 
requested might be sent to meet her. 
She fails to find them; but no doubt 
they are hidden behind some bulky 

• • • ' . . * 

• - « 

omnibus or intervening fly. Nor does 
she at first see any figure on the plat- 
form that strikes her as familiar. Her 
eye passes, carelessly at first indeed, over 
a showy-looking young lady pacing up 
and down with a rather swaggering air ; 
nor is it till she has vainly examined 
every other form and face that her glance 
casually alights again on the one first 
dismissed as unrecognised ; alights to 
discover that the swaggering young lady 
is none other than Jane — Jane shot up, 
dressed up, grown up ! 

For the first moment the shock of this 
metamorphosis strikes her dumb ; the 
metamorphosis that, in six brief months, 
has transformed a leggy tom-boy with 
short petticoats and pig-tail hair, into a 
self-conscious, modish woman of the world. 
Nor, when she recovers speech, is her 
greeting such as she had planned it should 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 103 

* Why, child/ in a shocked voice, * what 
a hat !' 

* I am sorry you do not like it,' replies 
Jane, pertly ; ' but one cannot please every- 

Gillian does not, for the moment, make 
any rejoinder. In a jarred silence she 
makes her way beside her cousin to the 
door of exit. Just before reaching it : 

* Uncle Marlowe has not come to meet 
me ?* she says in a subdued voice of 

' He said something about it,' replies 
Jane, carelessly ; ' but I persuaded him 
not to come. You know that he has no 
command over his feelings, and I thought 
he might very likely make a scene at the 

They have issued into the open air, 
and again Gillian's eyes seek expectantly 
the bay ponies with black points, which 
again they fail to find. Instead of them 

I04 Second Thoughts. 

a garish little equipage, drawn by a pair 
of piebald cobs, with florid harness, over- 
done with brass ornaments, bells round 
their necks, and roses at their ears, stops 
the way. 

' I — I— do not understand,' says Miss 
Latimer, in a bewildered voice. * What has 
become of my ponies l!' 

' They are sold,' replies Jane ; * I hope 
you do not mind ; but they were such 
humdrum old things, that it was no fun 
driving them. I persuaded papa to buy 
me these instead.' 

Gillian has changed colour sensibly. 

' Do they jump through hoops "i' she 
asks in a withering voice. 

To this ironical query Jane does not 
think it necessary to respond. 

* I hope you will excuse my getting in 
first,' she says, putting her foot on the 
step, ' as I am to drive.' 

* Can you drive "i' asks Gillian, in a 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 105 

rather doubtful voice ; ' had not you better 
let me ?* 

' Can I drive f repeats the other, with 
a toss of her head. ' My dear Gill, for- 
give fny laughing T 

In this pleasant frame of mind, they set 
off. The ponies are fresh, and pull a good 
deal ; and for the first mile Gillian^s 
attention is wholly occupied in distrust- 
fully watching her companion's manage- 
ment of them ; but at the end of that 
time, having satisfied herself that Jane's 
wrists are strong and that she has them 
well in hand, her thoughts, which the 
wholly unexpected turn taken by the 
incidents of the last half-hour have sent 
wool-gathering, begin to range themselves 
into some order. 

Is this really she, sitting snubbed and 
secondary, in this gaudy pony-chaise "i Is 
this really Jane — ^gawky, romping, but 
thoroughly be-mastered Jane — this off- 

io6 Second Thoughts. 

hand young woman, with rakish get-up 
and ddgagd mien, patronising her from a 
box-seat ? She looks round with a sort of 
gasp. Shall she find everything — the whole 
face of nature — equally changed ? Will the 
gentle hills have swelled to Himalayas, 
and the green meadows turned to torrid 
deserts ? 

She feels as if it would not much 
surprise her if they had. But, no ! at 
least the county is the same — the same 
dear northerly country of fells and becks, 
whose cool memory has often coipe back 
quickeningly to her in breathless London 

Clear of clouds stands out Ingleboro 
against the faint daffodil colour of the 
evening sky. He has shaken off" the 
vapours that often fold his ancient head 
to look on her in undimmed welcome. 
Even from here, though far off", she can 
clearly see on his brother s pale slopes, 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 107 

the wealthy flush of the amethyst heather. 
The country of grey-stone walls, of parky 
dells, kept green and fresh by constant 
rains, of little leaping brooks, and number- 
less vigorous ash-trees — thank God ! at 
least it is in nothing changed ! 

The sight of the gracious country on 
which her childhood and her happy youth 
were fed, so sweetly soothes and softens 
heart and temper, that by-and-by she is 
able to turn with recovered equanimity 
to her defiant companion. After all, the 
main things — the things that matter — are 
the same as they ever were. In her 
absence a few trifles have gone wrong, 
which, with tact and firmness, may soon 
be set right again. 

But, in these first moments of her home- 
coming, let fault-finding be in abeyance. 
So thinking, she speaks with a pleasant 
and conciliatory smile. 

* I see, Jane, that I was wrong to 

io8 Second Thoughts, 

doubt your, powers. Since I went, you 
have made wonderful progress in your 

* Have I ?' replies Jane, nonchalantly ; ' I 
suppose so. In six months one makes 
great progress in many directions.* 

There is something namelessly irritating 
to Miss Latimer in the tone in which this 
is said, and it is a moment or two before 
she can conquer the impression enough 
to say in the same friendly, if rather 
condescending key : 

* Indeed, I am glad to hear it. Do you 
mean to say that I shall find that you 
have made equally great strides in your 
lessons ?' 

' Lessons P repeats Jane, with contempt ; 
* do you suppose that I have any time for 
them now ? When I had to take your 
place, of course I was obliged to devote 
myself entirely to papa. What with him 
and the management of the house, and so 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 109 

, _ 

forth, I really have not a moment that I 
can call my own/ 

There is such an importance in the way 
in which this is said, that, were it not for 
extreme vexation, Gillian could find it in 
her heart to laugh. After all, it is the 
same statement, in almost the identical 
words, which she herself has often made 
in old times ; but how differently it seems 
to her, that it must have sounded in her 

' And Emilia ?' she says by-and-by, 
with an accent of quiet sarcasm — * is her 
education completed too ?' 

* I am trying to persuade papa to send 
Emilia to school,* replies Jane, gravely. 
* It would do her all the good in the world, 
and, as I tell him, I really cannot be 
worried with any more resident gover- 
nesses !' 

* And does it never occur to you to 
accompany her ?* asks Gillian ; the sarcasm 

no Second Thoughts. 

in her voice becoming, in despite of her 
late peaceful resolves, more patent than 

*//' replies Jane, with rising colour, 
* and what would become of papa, pray ? 
Poor dear ! do you think that any earthly 
consideration would induce me to desert 
him ?' 

After this flight of filial tenderness there 
is silence almost unbroken, until the circus 
ponies draw up with a whisk and a final 
jingle of their bells at the door of the solid 
grey house, that — built of the stone of 
the county, plain, yet stately — is known 
through the country-side as Marlowe Hall. 
At the house-door stands a stout figure, of 
whom no sooner is Gillian aware than she 
precipitates herself out of her Cinderella 
coach, and throws two eager arms round 
his short neck. 

* So you see that you have got me 
back !' she cries with something between 

Second Thoughts Are Best. iii 

a laugh and a sob. * Are you glad ? at 
least you are glad !* 

* Of course I am glad/ replies the 
Squire, as distinctly as her embrace will 
allow him. * We are all glad ; are not we, 
Jenny ?' 

There is no doubt that he means what he 
says ; but even while her arms are around 
him, she feels that he is looking appre- 
hensively over her shoulder — that there 
is a tone of deprecation and appeal in his 

' We are all glad, eh, Jenny ?' he repeats 
a second time ; but Miss Jane is standing 
by her ponies, and giving some imperious 
order about them to her small groom. 

Whether or not she hears her father s 
question, she certainly does not answer 
it. Gillian*s arms drop to her sides. With 
a feeling of utter blank disappointment, 
she turns to enter the house. 

' I think I will go to my room at once,' 

112 Second Thoughts. 

she says in a low voice, making towards 
the familiar staircase ; * I shall be glad to 

* Perhaps I had better show you which 
it is,' cries Jane officiously, and following 
her quickly. * I hope you will not mind, 
but I now have the one you used to 
occupy ; papa likes to have me near 

*And I am turned out!' says Gillian, 
standing stock-still half-way up the stairs, 
in a voice in which astonishment and 
anger struggle for the mastery. 

* I am sorry you are annoyed,' replies 
Jane glibly, and in a tone from which 
sorrow is conspicuously absent ; ' but of 
course I had to please papa/ 

Without another word — for what word 

is competent to express her feelings — Miss 

Latimer pursues her upward journey, and 

mutely submits to being shown into one 

of the guest-chambers into which she 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 113 

has so often ushered a two days* guest ; 
and to being left there with the same civil 
wish that she has often expressed to such 
a guest that she may find it comfortable. 
Dinner, has been announced full five 
minutes before Gillian, once conspicuous 
for punctuality, appears in the drawing- 
room. Perhaps it has taken her all the 
time spent by her in her bedroom to get 
her features and her complexion into 
society trim again, nor has she been 
markedly successful even now. 

' Rested, Gill ?' says the squire, in a 
voice of anxious conciliation, looking 
nervously from the lowering brow of one 
of his young friends to the undaunted 
front of the other; * ready for dinner, I 
daresay? Come along.' So saying, he 

gives her his arm. 

As they enter the dining-room, Gillian 
is aware that Jane has pushed hastily past 
them, and hurried to place herself at the 

VOL. II. 28 

114 Second Thoughts. 

head of the table. Unprepared for this 
last blow, Gillian stands a moment, irreso- 
lute and stunned ; then, finding that her 
uncle is regarding her with an expression 
little short of terror to see how she takes 
this fresh innovation, she sinks supinely 
into the guest's seat at the side of the 
table, and the victory remains with Jane. 
It is some time before anyone makes a 
remark. At length Gillian, pointedly 
addressing the question to the Squire, 
asks, stiffly : 

* Where is Emilia ? where is Dick ? 
Am I not to be allowed to see them ?* 

* You will find Emilia in the drawing- 
room,' answers Jane, thrusting in her 
answer before her father has time to 
frame one. * As to Dick, he is in dis- 
grace ; I have sent him to bed.' 

* And may I ask what his offence was ?* 
says Gillian, with a frost-bound look at 
her cousin. 

Second Thoughts Are Best, 115 

* He was impertinent to me,* replies 
Jane, with dignity. * Papa never allows 
him to be impertinent to me ; do you, papa ?' 

* He never used to be impertinent,' 
rejoins Gillian, in a low voice. 

* Had you much dust, Gill ? many 
flies T cries the Squire, rushing in at this 
point )yith eager irrelevancy. 

She answers coldly and gently, and 
again there is silence. 

Dinner is over now, and so is the 
evening, and in the unfamiliar bedroom 
Gillian stands by the open window, 
looking out from the unfamiliar point of 
view at the friendly starlit fells. 

* I am as unwelcome here as I was 
unregretted there !' she says to herself 
aloud, in a heart-broken voice. ' What 
good shall my life do me ?* 



THIS is, of course, a night mood, 
drawing exaggerated blackness 
from the kindred dark. When Hght's 
morning sea washes joyously over the 
world, some of its waves roll over the 
heart of the girl, to whom overnight all 
had seemed gloom. To her saner, day- 
light mind, the disappointments and 
mortifications attendant on her arrival 
seem to have been magnified by her 
beyond their due. By the time she has 
finished dressing — so powerfully and san- 
guinely do the sunshine and the fresh 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 117 

country breeze blowing in at her window 
act upon her healthy frame — she is far 
from despairing, ere the week is out, of 
resuming her occupation of her room, and 
her headship of the table. Nor, during 
the first hour or so of her joining the 
family party, does much happen to disturb 
this cheerful disposition. It is true that, 
on coming down, she has found Jane 
firmly established behind the tea-urn, and 
' that, during the whole of breakfast, that 
young person is so ostentatiously occupied 
by the offices of filial piety, as to be hardly 
able to answer when she is addressed. 

But, on the other hand, Emilia, whom, 
after all, she did not see last night — Emilia, 
with her petticoats up to her knees, and 
her flax pig-tails hanging long and tight 
down her back as of yore — the very sight 
refreshes her — has bounced rapturously 
into her arms ; followed with every 
symptom of extravagant joy by Dick. 

ii8 Second Thoughts. 

And though, in the case of the latter, it 
by-and-by strikes her that he is less 
docile than he used to be, that he has 
even contracted one or two rude and 
awkward tricks, . yet, as he tells her many 
times how glad he is that she is at home 
again, and how much better he likes her 
than Jane, she cannot find it in her heart 
to be hypercritical as to the details of his 
behaviour. He would have liked, and she 
would have liked that he should accom- 
pany her when, by-and-by, she walks 
down into the little town at the hill-foot ; 
but this is imperiously vetoed by Jane, by 
whom he is dragged off to his lessons ; 
slapping the hand that leads him, pulling 
back with all his little angry force, and 
calling her many naughty names, of which 
it strikes Gillian that he has a larger 
repertory than he had six months ago. 

* You have not a good method with him, 
Jane,' she says in that tone of calm 

Second Thoughts Are Best, 119 

severity which she had formerly found so 
invaluable a weapon in the management of 
her little kingdom. But the spell has lost 
its power. 

' Don't you think so T replies Jane, 
coldly. * I do what I think is right, and 
at all events I succeed in pleasing papa.* 

So saying, she disappears ; not, how- 
ever, without adding an important expla- 
nation that it is her household duties that 
call her away. And Gillian waits long 
and vainly to be summoned to one of 
those formerly invariable morning confer- 
ences in his study, in which she was wont 
to make up her uncle s mind for him on 
any point that might require decision, and 
generally lay down the lines of his conduct 
through the day. At length, obliged to 
own that this habit also is broken, this law 
repealed, she takes hat and sunshade, and 
strolls down alone and half-bewildered to 
the small grey town. 


I20 Second Thoughts. 

As she walks along between the weather- 
stained limestone walls, colonised as of 
yore by the families of the tiny ferns, and 
painted by the lichen's tints ; with the 
crisp breath of the fells in her face, her 
spirits again begin to rise. Though 
thwarting and disappointment have met 
her indoors, she will at least find indemni- 
fication and consolation in the town ; in 
the contemplation of the little charitable 
institutions of her own creating and main- 
taining, which she had left so flourish- 
ing; the Temperance-room, so excellently 
guided that people setting up like ones in 
neighbour parishes had come from afar 
to see and take pattern by it ; the baby- 
school, where prodigies in the way of 
patchwork quilts, confected by fingers of 
three and four years, were wont to be 
exhibited to the wondering eyes of 
admiring visitors ; the baby-school, for 
which she had begged a cottage from the 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 121 

Squire, and at whose head she had placed 
a gentle motherly widow, warranted not to 
overdrive the small scholars. But, alas ! 
even here discomfiture awaits her. On 
reaching the cottage she finds that the 
motherly widow has remarried ; the school 
is broken up, and the infants returned 
upon their families' hands, their accom- 
plishments forgotten, and their education 
suspended until the School Board shall 
take them in hand. Shocked, and deeply 
chafed, she turns away, and continues her 
walk, though with a less elastic step, 
through the town. It is market-day, and 
at the door of all the public-houses stand 
knots of farmers. At sight of them an 
apprehension, to which she does not even 
yet give willing entrance, makes her 
quicken her pace, and brings her in a very 
few minutes to the door of the Temper- 
ance-room. She tries it ; it is locked ; 
through the unshuttered window she looks 

122 Second Thoughts. 

into the interior. There are absolutely no 
signs of occupation ; none of the usual 
market-day preparations of cups and 
loaves, and cocoa- and tea-pots. Angry 
and aghast, she turns away, and by 
hastily questioning every passer-by, finds 
— though with some difficulty, for she has 
changed her place of abode — the woman 
whom, when she went away, she had left 
in charge, and from her discovers that by 
Jane's orders it has now been for more 
than two months closed. 

* If you please, *m, Miss Marlowe should 
say as she had not the time to attend to it, 
and that the people would prize it more if 
they did not think as they could always 
make sure of it, and so one day she left 
word as it was to be closed till further 

* Did she, indeed T replies Gillian, with 
flaming face and flashing eyes. * Well, 
then, / give orders that it is to be 

Second Thoughts Are Best, 123 

reopened at once. Please go this moment, 
and begin to light the fire, and boil the 

To so peremptory a command, neither 
man nor mouse in Marlowe would six 
months ago have ventured to pay any- 
thing but an eager and hasty obedience. 
It is the measure to Gillian of the extent 
to which her authority has drooped, that 
her subordinate still demurs. 

* I believe, 'm,* she says respectfully, 
but not acquiescently, * that Miss Marlowe 
did not think of opening it again before 

A deeper-dyed wave of rich colour than 
that which already tinges them, rushes 
headlong into Miss Latimer s cheeks. 

* Whatever Miss Marlqwe thinks, or 
does not think — says, or does not say,* she 
cries masterfully, tapping her foot with 
ireful emphasis on the tiled floor of the 
subject of contention, into which they have 

124 Second Thoughts. 

now entered, * I say that it is to be 
reopened now, this minute ; and I ex- 
pect to be obeyed at once, please — at 
once P 

It is not for some moments — so hot is 
the fire of her uncalculating zeal — that 
Gillian can be brought to admit that what 
she commands is, for the moment at least, 
an impossibility ; that, owing to the abso- 
lute necessity of giving a thorough 
cleaning to a room so long disused, thanks 
also to the entire absence of preparation 
and destitution of the necessary provisions, 
the accomplishment of her will must be 
postponed to next market-day, and that, 
for this one, the public-houses must remain 
in undisputed possession of their prey. 
Having at length reluctantly given admit- 
tance to this conviction, having delivered 
oft -repeated final injunctions as to the 
re-establishment on its old footing of her 
wrecked scheme, the setting on its legs 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 125 

again of her fallen hobby, she turns to 
retrace her steps homewards. 

It is hotter going up the hill than it was 
coming down ; the breeze no longer cools 
her, and she does not even see the fells. 
Feeling that to meet Jane in her present 
mood is the one thing by all means to be 
avoided, she strolls languidly along the 
raised terrace that dominates the approach, 
and seating herself on the low grey wall, 
begins idly to watch the shorthorns in the 
park pull down the tree-boughs, and eat 
the leaves. The spiced petunias are 
giving out their potent perfume in the 
morning air. All the smells and sights of 
the blessed country are as good as — better 
than she had remembered them ; but yet, 
to them all, her senses seem shut. It is 
a day — one of the very few that come 
to us — of improbable splendour. Great 
brilliant clouds that mean nothing less 
than rain, slowly sailing through sapphire 

126 Second Thoughts, 

wastes ; pastures where the aftermath is so 
green and fresh and bright as to make 
you wink. Ingleboro lifting his high 
head clean above his brothers', and on his 
and their long flanks each patch of royal- 
coloured heather, each fir plantation, each 
grey limestone shoulder, each slope of fine 
turf, seen plainly as heart could wish in 
the glory of the settled sunshine. But 
Gillian is as one that sits at a feast without 
being able to taste it. By-and-by she is 
aware of a solid foot crunching the gravel 
in drawing near to her ; a foot that stays 
its step beside her. She does not immedi- 
ately look round with a welcoming smile 
as she would have done of yore, but keeps 
her head turned towards where in the 
valley the fair Lune river runs. 

* Well, Gill ?' in a rather nervous voice. 
' Well, dear ?' very gravely. 

* The Fells are looking well, are not 
they ?^ 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 127 

' Yes,* she answers, now turning round 
her face fully towards him — a face orna- 
mented by a bitter curling smile. * I am 
only surprised that they are not stand- 
ing on their heads ; that they have not 
turned topsy-turvy, like everything else 

To this suave pleasantry the Squire 
makes no answer, unless an expression of 
hopeless perplexity, a futile pushing about 
of little pebbles with the point of his stick, 
a covert glance over his own shoulder, as 
with some vague idea of escape, may be 
called one. 

Perhaps Miss Latimer divines that this 
notion of evasion exists in his mind, for 
she rises with dignity, and saying : 

* I am glad that you have given me this 
opportunity. I have been wishing to 
speak to you,* puts her hand decidedly 
through his arm, and leads him away 
captive among the flower-beds. 

128 Second Thoughts. 

It is a lovely desultory garden, hilly and 
irregular ; unlike Timon*s, where 

* Grove nods to grove, each alley has its brother, 
And half the platform just reflects the other.' 

Here nothing answers to anything else, 
but there is everywhere a rule-defying 
jumble of blossoms and boughs. Clumps 
of glossy laurels, flights of rustic steps, 
long rose-beds, where Lancaster s red rose 
blows predominant, and at the very 
bottom a shallow beck trips in unending 
laughter along. 

By the side of the beck stands a rustic 
seat, and on this seat Gillian resolutely 
establishes her uncle, and plants herself, 
with an air of determination that chills the 
marrow of his bones, beside him. 

* I am sure that I do not wish to re- 
proach you, dear,* she begins in a voice 
that she sincerely tries to make one of dis- 
passionate candour and justice ; * but I 
think that before you allowed me to return 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 129 

you should have given me some idea of 
the entire revolution that you have made 
in your household since I left you/ 

* But I have not !' cries the Squire, in 
anxious disclaimer. * I assure you, Gill, 
that you are mistaken ; I am sure I do not 
know how things have come about, but I 
assure you that / have done nothing/ 

*As long ago as at the time of my 
father's death,' continues Gillian, impres- 
sively, * I remember your telling me that 
you thought you saw, as you phrased it, 
'* an inclination on the part of my team to 
kick over the traces." Well, dear, I can 
only tell you now' — with an accent of 
austere composure — *that unless I am very 
ably seconded and vigorously backed by 
you, I shall have to give up the attempt at 
driving them at all.' 

Awed by this threat, though perhaps to 
his own secret soul he may confess that it 
does not convey to him the impression of 

VOL. II. 29 

130 Second Thoughts. 

utter ruin that it would have done a 
twelvemonth ago, the Squire stares hope- 
lessly at the beck. Tall forest trees over- 
shadow it, now and then dropping a leaf 
on its brown breast. Water-flies dance 
and airily skim it ; here a tiny waterfall 
slides over mossed stones, and there 
Emilia and Dick have made a mimic dam 
to stem and fret it in its gay course ; but 
through the piled sticks and stones it 
tinkles and trickles away, and sets them 
at nought. 

* I am sure,* he s5ys in an uncertain 
voice, *that it is the last thing I should 
wish ; but — but — I give you my word of 
honour, I do not see my way to helping 

* If you ask my advice,* cries his niece, 
eagerly — he is certainly innocent of having 
done so—* if you think my opinion worth 
having, I have no hesitation in recom- 
mending you to send Jane to a good 


Second Thoughts Are Best. 131 

school immediately ; you have allowed her* 
— with an accent of dignified reproach — * to 
get completely beyond the control of any 
governess, so school is the only alterna- 

The Squire shakes his head. 

* She would not go/ 

* Would not go !' repeats Gillian, angrily, 
darting a contemptuous glance at the poor 
gentleman beside her. *You must be 
joking! A child of that age !* 

* She is not so very young, you know,* 
replies the Squire,* in faint demurrer : ' six- 
teen this month, and she tells me she is 
always taken for eighteen.* 

*And you always take everything she 
says au pied de la lettre 7 says Gillian, 
with an aigre doux smile. * It really is a 
sin and a shame to impose upon anyone 
who is as easily taken in as you are ; it is 
like robbing a nest.* 

But it seems that he holds, with a 

29 — 2 

132 Second Thoughts. 

tenacity to which her experience of him 
affords no parallel, to his idea. 

* She is old for her age/ he says almost 
persistently. * She is a girl with a great 
deal of character ; knows her own mind, 
and thinks for herself. Do you know. 
Gill ' — with a deprecating smile, putting 
his hand on her shoulder — * do you know, 
Gill, that she often reminds me of you H* 

*0f me r cries Miss Latimer, giving a 
great start, and with an accent of the most 
profound astonishment and displeasure 
— * does she indeed }' 

It is not often, perhaps, in the course of 
our lives that an absolutely new idea 
presents itself to our minds — an idea of 
which we have had neither hint nor inkling 
beforehand ; but such is now Gillian's case. 
The notion, timidly hazarded by the 
Squire, has the effect of reducing to a 
stupefied silence his voluble niece. Is it 
possible that the very qualities which have 

Second Thoughts Are Best. (^133 

•^— - 

been rendering Jane so odious in her eyes 
— the^ insolent self-assertion, the deep-laid, 
high-spoken confidence in her own, and 
contempt for others* judgment ; the rude 
and selfish snatching at power, and veiling 
it under a thin mask of filial duty — that 
these very qualities are but reflected from 
herself; that, as Jane now appears to her, 
so has she been appearing all these years 
to other people ? Now that she comes to 
look at it, there is a horrible likelihood in 
the idea. Just as her mind has fully 
grasped the horror and also the probability 
of this resemblance — a resemblance which 
may very possibly extend to physical as 
well as moral qualities, for are not they 
both tall and well-grown ? — Miss Jane her- 
self appears in sight — appears stepping 
along with her now usual swaggering air, 
holding her head aloft, and humming a 

* Where have you been hiding yourself. 

134 Second Thoughts. 

dear ?' she says, addressing her father in a 
tone of indulgent, but distinct reproof. * I 
have been hunting for you high and low/ 

* Have you indeed, Jenny ?* replies the 
Squire, with a good-humoured but not 
very easy-minded smile ; * you see. Gill and 
I have been having a chat/ 

* I am sorry to disturb you,' rejoins Jane, 
in an important voice, *but I am afraid 
that I must carry you off now, as there is 
some business on which I must speak to 
you at once.* 

* Is it something that I am not to hear ?' 
asks Gillian, with slow incisiveness, lifting 
a cutting look to her cousin's face. * Some- 
thing too sacred for ears profane ? Am I 
to go away ? or may I be allowed to 
remain if I promise to stop my ears }' 

* Nonsense ! nonsense !* cries the Squire, 
now thoroughly frightened by the tone the 
conversation is taking, and hastening to 
interpose a pacificatory reply. * Of course 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 135 

we have nothing that you may not hear ; 
we have no secrets, have we, Jenny ?* 

* I do not know what you mean by 
secrets,' replies Jane, in a displeased voice, 
turning her shoulder to her father. 

*Go, dearf says Miss Latimer, sarcas- 
tically, giving a slight push with one white 
hand to the Squire, who, in the indecision 
and uneasiness of his mind, has risen, and 
now stands beside his tall daughter. * I 
would not for worlds detain you! Who 
could answer for what might be the con- 
sequences T 


THIS it is to be a tutelar angel! 
This it is to have been the main 
beam of a building, the key-stone of an 
arch, the sole prop and support of a 
dependent family ! The prop has been 
removed, and the family has found that it 
still stands upright ; the angel has been 
obliged for a time to withdraw, and the 
family has made the discovery that the 
winnowing of her wings was rather irk- 
some than otherwise. Hot tears rise to 
her eyes, as she sits, alone now, on the 
garden-seat, sung to by the happy beck, 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 137 

whose gaiety seems to, have something 
ironical in it ; but she swallows them back. 
It is too early in the day to begin to cry. 
Sunk in mortifying meditations, she 
remains in the same posture, unheeding 
the march of the summer day, until the 
sound of the distant gong, announcing 
luncheon, rouses her. At once she makes 
her way back to the house ; but though 
she uses her best speed, she finds, by the 
time she reaches it, her family almost half- 
way through the meal. 

* I hope you will excuse our beginning 
without you,' says Jane, in her most 
elaborate hostess manner ; Jane installed 
in hat and fichu at the head of the table, 
gloves and en tout cas lying beside her, 
and haste and business in every gesture — 
* but really, with me to-day, time is money. 
I have a mothers' meeting at 2*30, a lawn- 
tennis party at 4, and a singing- class 
at 6.' 

138 Second Thoughts. 

* Where is your lawn-tennis party to 
be ?' asks Gillian, trying, for the Squire's 
sake, to speak in an amicable tone. 

* It is at Mrs. Begbie s,' replies Jane, a 
slight additional shade of colour deepening 
the red of her cheek, and turning her head 
a little away as she pronounces the name 
of a widow of more than doubtful ante- 
cedents, who had come to settle in the 
neighbourhood shortly before Gillian's 
departure, and whose acquaintance she 
had studiously shunned. 

' Is it possible that you visiter?* she 
asks, with an accent of surprise and indig- 
nation, * I cannot say ' — in the old 
hortatory voice that of late has so sadly 
missed its effect — ' I cannot say that I 
think her at all a good companion for 
you !* 

' Don't you ?* replies Jane, with a super- 
cilious smile. * I do not think she will do 
me much harm ; I am not very easily 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 139 

influenced by people, and papa likes me to 
be kind and neighbourly to everybody — 
don't you, papa ?' 

The Squire's only answer is an uneasy 
gesture that may mean anything ; and 
Gillian, moved to compassion and almost 
to laughter — though she does not, heaven 
knows, feel very mirthful — by the anguish 
of apprehension expressed by his whole 
air, hastens to change the conversation. 
Trying to soften the severity of her 
features, she turns to him, and laying her 
hand, with the old caressing gesture, on 
his, asks : 

* And you ? Are you so busy too ?' 

* I !' cries the Squire, his brow clearing, 
and heartily returning her caress. * Oh 
no ! nothing very wonderful ; I promised 
Anstruther ' — Anstruther is the agent — 
*to ride over to Satterth waiters farm, to 
see about some out-buildings that he is 
trying to get us to new roof for him.' 

140 Second Thoughts. 

* And may I come too ?* asks Gillian, 
eagerly, as the opportunities for admoni- 
tion and exhortation afforded by the long, 
unbroken tHe-a-tHe of a mountain ride 
flash across her. * I should love a gallop 
with you across the heather! It is so 
long' — wistfully — * since I have had one/ 

' I should like nothing better,* replies 
the Squire ; but there are a perplexity in his 
face and an unreadiness in his tone which 
contradict the acquiescence of his words. 

' But what ?' cries she impatiently. 
* Surely nobody ' — with a slight but un- 
mistakable accent on the word — * can 
have any objection to make !' 

* Oh, none — none in the world, of 
course,* rejoins he, confusedly ; * it is only 
that * 

* Are you trying to tell me,' she says, 
with a deepening tint and an unsteady 
voice, * that my horse. Dapple — I mean * 
(correcting herself) *the horse that 

Second Thoughts Are Best, 141 

you used to allow me to call mine — is 

* Sold ! bless your heart, no !* cries he, 
with a rather forced laugh ; * what could 
have put such an idea into your head ? It 
is only ' — beginning again to hesitate and 
flounder — *that we are rather short of 
horses just now, and so Jenny has been 
riding him of late, and she was rather 
thinking — were not you, Jenny ?' (looking 
imploringly for help at her) — *of riding 
him over to this tennis-party to-day/ 

There is a dead silence. 
Gillian could not speak if she would, and 
would not if she could. 

* You must settle it between yourselves,* 
replies the Squire, rising hastily from his 
scarcely finished luncheon, and solving the 
problem by a dastardly retreat. * I am 
sure ' — turning as he reaches the door to 
cast a parting glance of entreaty and 
deprecation at the two lowering young 

142 Second Thoughts. 

faces he leaves behind him — * I am sure 
that you will be able to settle it comfort- 
ably between yourselves/ 

The way in which they settle it comfort- 
ably between themselves is that, at the 
appointed hour, Miss Jane, sitting very 
square, and looking very grown-up in a 
well-made Wolmerhausen habit, trots 
smartly off to her party ; and that Gillian 
wastes the long splendour of the afternoon 
in idly and wrathfuUy erring about her 
former haunts ; meeting at every turn 
traces of the reversal of her laws, the up- 
setting of her institutions, the contempt of 
and revolt against her whole scheme of 
government. Her shoe clubs, clothing 
clubs, coal clubs, lending library, are all 
languishing to their fall, or conducted on 
different and often opposite principles ; and 
her drunkards have, to a man, relapsed. 
One of them indeed, and the most pro- 
mising, is in gaol. It seems as if a sponge 

Second Thoughts Are Best, 143 

had been passed over the labours of her 
six years, wiping out and leaving no 
trace of the work she had thought so 

Is it possible that all this undoing can 
have been wrought in six short months ? 
Is it possible that she has misreckoned, 
and that she has been away in reality six 
years ? Many times during the next week 
does she, in a half-maze of pain and 
wonder, ask herself this question. 

A week is the period which, at her first 
apprehending of the changed condition of 
things, she had set before herself as suf- 
ficient with tact and firmness for the re- 
entering into her rights, the re-taking her 
revolted realm. And now the week has 
passed, and she finds herself more hope- 
lessly ousted than was ever exiled Stuart 
or banished Bourbon. She is obliged to 
own to herself that on the Marlowe throne 
there is not room for two, and that 

144 Second Thoughts. 

nothing is further from the present 
monarches thoughts than abdication. It is 
not that Miss Latimer has let her sceptre 
tamely slip without an effort to retain it. 
To the contrary can testify many a hard- 
fought fight ; but all in vain. In each 
pitched battle, in each slighter skirmish, 
Jane, with the nine points of the law in 
her favour — Jane, with her sense of duty, 
and her filial piety always ready to be 
glibly asserted, always set well in the fore- 
front of the fray, has come off invariably 

Often when she is quite by herself and 
none can see her, Gillian yet covers her 
face with her hands as a rush of burning 
shame pours over her, when she recalls the 
pictures she had painted for Burnet of the 
position held by her in this family ; of the 
boundless love and reverence with which 
she was regarded ; of the absoluteness of 
her sway, and the benign clemency with 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 145 

which It was exercised. Oh, if he could 
see her now ! 

Another week has passed, and another. 

It is three weeks now since she left him 
and his sister ; and of or from neither of 
them has she heard a word. Often when 
her eyes are absently fixed on the lawny 
mists that swathe the fells' fair necks, or 
the voyaging cloud-shadows that slowly 
sweep across their pale flanks, her sore 
heart — dear as the fresh and wholesome 
country has ever been to her — is back in 
the airless London house ; in the ugly 
upholstered drawing-room, with the india- 
rubber plant, and the somnolent tom-cat 
and the crooked-tempered poll-parrot. 
From the Tarltons she might possibly 
gather tidings — for that Sophia should 
allow the acquaintance so eagerly pursued, 
to lapse, is not credible ; but the Tarltons 
have been, ever since Gillian's return, 
absent from their country home, on a 

VOL. II. 30 

146 Second Thoughts. 

family tour through the neighbouring Lake 

It is not till August is declining towards 
his close, till the harvest-fields are shorn, 
and the loose-strife empurples the river s 
lips, that at length on a shining forenoon 
the two girls make their appearance 
together at Marlowe. It is with unaffected 
pleasure that Gillian welcomes them ; so 
sensibly do times and circumstances modify 
our feelings towards our friends. She is 
sitting on the low grey wall. They place 
themselves one on each side of her, and 
without a murmur she abandons a hand to 
each. As she looks from one to the other 
of the cheerful, friendly faces, she feels for 
the moment as if they were the dearest 
and most congenial of intimates, and as if 
such had always been her own opinion of 
them. Her jealousy of Sophia has of late 
been somewhat lulled to sleep, partly by 
the sound of that farewell blessing which 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 147 

since it was spoken has never ceased to 
echo in her ears, partly because it has 
been crowded off the stage of her mind by 
other and more tangible troubles. 

* So you are back again ?' she says, 
turning her head with a smile from one to 
the other. 

* Thank heaven, yes !' cry they both in 
a breath. 

* Profit by our experience, which, by- 
the-bye, no one ever will do,' says Sophia, 
shrugging. * Never take a pleasure trip 
with your family. We had to see so much 
of each other, and we all pulled different 

* Wherever we went, father and mother 
put us to shame with their squabbles,* cries 
Anne, dutifully ; * and as for us, we were 
not on speaking terms the whole time, 
which, as we took no maid with us, and all 
our gowns laced up the back, we found 
rather embarrassing.* 


148 Second Thoughts. 

* The one bright spot in the whole 
expedition/ says Sophia, *was certainly 
the meeting the Burnets at Ambleside ; 
and, without vanity, I think I may say that 
we were as great a boon to them, as they, 
or rather he was to us.* 

' The Burnets,* repeats Gillian, in a low, 
tremulous voice, flushing painfully at this 
sudden and unexpected introduction of the 
name which she has been longing and 
hoping, and meaning by -and -by to 
manoeuvre to hear. 

* Yes, the Burnets !* replies Sophia, 
looking with surprise, but without sus- 
picion (for it is astonishing how blunt 
one-s senses are if not specially set on a 
track), at her friend's augmented bloom, 
regarding it as one of the accidents to 
which a transparent skin is liable, and 
which may go far towards reconciling a 
woman of sense to the possession of a 
coarser epidermis. * He is taking his 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 149 

holiday, you know ; certainly not before he 
needs it : with him it really is the sword 
wearing out the scabbard. I told him 
so ; I spoke to him very seriously about 
it, I assure you/ 

* Did you ?' 

* They are to come and stay with us 
shortly,' pursues Miss Tarlton, in a com- 
placent voice ; * they are to take us in 
their way south.' 

* He showed no vulgar eagerness in his 
acceptance,' says Anne, in a dry voice; *but 
ours is the real north-country hospitality. 
We would not take ** No," eh, Sophia V 

* It was his exaggerated delicacy,' says 
Sophia, thinking it on the whole wiser to 
slur over than contest her sister's speech ; 
* for my part I think it a fault on the right 
side. He did not understand at first that 
his sister was included in the invitation, 
and you know how quixotically chivalrous 
he is towards her.' 

150 Second Thoughts. 

* Did they say anything — did they send 
any message to me ?* asks Gillian, trying 
to command her rebel voice, and address- 
ing the question to Anne, to whom it 
seems easier to speak than to Sophia on 
this theme. 

* Did they, Sophia ?* asks Anne, care- 
lessly. * You will know best ; you were 
blessed with more of their converse than 
I was.' 

*Any message?* repeats Miss Tarlton, 
composedly ; * not that I recollect — none, 
I think. But of course, if you really care 
to see them — somehow I had an idea that 
you would not — we will certainly bring 
them over here some day ; it will be an 
object for a drive.* 

If she care to see them ! Her eyes, 
suffused with a sudden mist, turn for 
comfort from the unconscious human 
cruelty to the unwounding blandness of 
the lovely landscape. Oh, the variety of 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 151 

expression on these fells' faces! If any 
woman's had but a tithe of such fair 
changes, she might sway the world by her 
beauty's magic. To-day, dim and myste- 
rious ; to-morrow, sulky and same ; thfe 
day after, laughing in sunny familiarity ; the 
day after that, drowned in pettish tears ! 
There is no end to their enchanting whims. 
By-and-by Jane appears — appears, in 
order to give an ostentatious invitation to 
luncheon, accompanied by a somewhat 
patent implication that she is the only 
authentic source of such. 

* Thank you, Jane,' replies Sophia, 
coolly. 'Gillian has already asked us. 
Dear me, child, how you grow ! at this 
rate you will soon be a woman !' 

Miss Jane's only answer is to toss her 
head, and walk away rather rapidly. 

* What an odious girl !' cries Sophia, 
emphatically, as soon as — almost before 
she is out of hearing. 

152 Second Thoughts. 

* Do you think so ?* says Gillian, 
demurely. * Uncle Marlowe says that 
she reminds him so much of me.* 

* Does he indeed ?' replies Sophia, 
laughing, but without the violent and 
instant outcry of indignation which 
Gillian had fully expected and hoped 
for. * How absurd ! but,' with a little 
air of reflection, ' j see^ what he means !' 

Mortified by this unlooked-for response, 
Gillian again turns her eyes towards 
Ingleboro and the Lune. Already they 
have passed into another fair phase. The 
foreground is washed in brilliant light, so 
that one can see each white cropping 
sheep, each couchant cow, almost each 
bright grass-blade in the fat pastures; 
and behind stand the fells, one grave 
chain of shadowed sister hills ; then, even 
while she looks, a long sword of light that 
comes, one knows not whence — a lovely 
surprise — smites athwart the valley. 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 153 

* Why is not she at school ?' asks 
Sophia presently, in a voice of some 

* Because she won't go/ replies Gillian, 

* Wont!' repeats Sophia, lifting her 
eyebrows. *Why, Gillian, that is a word 
that formerly you would not have allowed 
any of them to admit into their vocabu- 

* Should I not T says Gillian, with a 
bitter smile. * Perhaps not ; but now, you 
see, nous avons changd tout cela. Now they 
do not ask my leave.* 

* How truly glad I should be,' says 
Sophia, with an accent of hearty sincerity, 
* to hear that the Squire had brought 
home an able-bodied, strong-minded step- 
mother some fine day to set over 
Jane !' 

*A stepmother!' repeats Gillian in a 
shocked voice, regarding her friend at the 

154 Second Thoughts. 

same time with a startled and disapproving 
air. * Impossible !' 

* More unlikely things have happened T 
replies Sophia, matter- of- factly. * He is 
not at all an old man as men go — the 
sunny side of sixty, I daresay — and if he 
were properly smartened and brushed up, 
a very presentable one. I can assure you 
that I think a woman might very easily 
do worse !* 

* You are talking nonsense, Sophia ; I 
must beg you to change the subject !* cries 
Gillian austerely, and reddening, as she 
violently repels the idea thus for the first 
time presented to her mind, clashing as it 
does with her lifelong picturesque con- 
ception of her uncle, as a venerable old 
man, to be tended and protected with 

, daughterly care, and in connection with 

whom the idea of marriage is irreverent 
and sacrilegious. 

* With all my heart !* replies Sophia, 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 155 

good-humouredly ; ' but, however angry it 
may make you, I must repeat that many 
more unlikely things have happened, and 
that for my part 1 think it would be the 
salvation of the whole family.' 


INTO the already numerous displea- 
sures and uneasinesses of Gillian's 
lot there is now a new element introduced. 
The seed cast by Sophia's careless hand 
has germinated and begun to spring. 

It is with altered and anxious eyes that 
she now looks at the Squire. God wot 
she wishes him health and long life ; and 
yet, to her awakened perceptions it is a 
shock to find how illusory has been the 
idea of venerable age with which she has 
been investing him. There is absolutely 
nothing reverend in the short grizzled hair, 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 157 

thick and upright, that she has been wont 
to stroke with protecting, tender hand, as 
if no rough breeze must be allowed to 
handle anything so venerable and so dear. 
Still less is there anything that speaks of 
caducity in the thick-set sturdy figure and 
the vigorous limbs. 

' About how old are you, dear T she 
says to him one day, after having been 
looking at him for a long time, head on 
hand, with an air of pensive disquiet : 
* would you mind telling me ?' 

* How old I am !' repeats the Squire, in 
a doubtful voice. * Ah, there you puzzle 
me. Gill ! That is what I never can 
recollect myself. I know that I am some- 
where in the fifties, and that I was born 
on a Monday — Monday s child is full of 
grace, they say — but if you were to kill 
me for it, I could not tell you to a year.* 

Somewhere in the fifties. On the 
sunny side of sixty therefore, as Sophia 

158 Second Thoughts. 

said. A foreboding misgiving strikes chill 
to Gillian's heart. If she has been right 
so far, what is there to hinder her being 
right altogether.'* What is there to 
prevent him from bringing home any day 
that able-bodied stepmother of whom Miss 
Tarlton had prophetically spoken } Each 
time that, in the innocency of his heart, he 
goes out about his usual business and 
pleasures, she half expects to see him 
return leading such an one in triumph in 
his hand. And though by no stepmother 
could Gillian herself be more utterly 
ousted from all share in the government 
than she already is ; though under no 
rdgime could she be more entirely an out- 
sider and a supernumerary than she is 
under the present one, yet she shrinks 
with unconquerable repugnance from 
the notion of seeing the Squire new 

One would think — if one went upon the 

Second Tiioughts Are Best. 159 

supposition that people always follow the 
dictates of reason, are always consistent 
and rational — that Miss Latimer would 
rejoice in any change that would bring 
about the downfall of Jane ; but even this 
motive, potent as it is, is unequal to recon- 
ciling her to the unwelcome possibility. 
And yet, as the days go on, the situation, 
as it at present stands, grows ever more 
and more untenable. The daily jars wax , 
ever more frequent and more bitter ; 
Jane's assertion of authority more arro- 
gant; her filial piety more ostentatious 
and more successful. 

* Poor Jenny ! she has a high spirit of 
her own, but she certainly is a most affec- 
tionate child !' is a phrase now constantly 
on her father's lips ; and it is one of the 
hardest among Gillian's minor trials to 
give to this statement even the modified 
acquiescence of total silence. 

Each night as she, with chafed temper 

i6o Second Thoughts, 

and galled feelings, lays her head on the 

pillow, she asks herself : 

' Why am I still here ? Why, with all 
the world before me, am I still here ?* 

Perhaps it is because all the world is 
before her, because there is no deter- 
mining motive to decide her choice of one 
place or one scheme of life rather than 
another, that she still keeps her painful 

The present turn of affairs has found 
her so entirely unprepared, that the be- 
wilderment of it still makes her brain 
whirl. Of all the numerous plans pro- 
jected by her since her accession to 
fortune — plans of usefulness, power, and 
pleasure — Marlowe has ever been the 
pivot on which they turned : Marlowe, 
her home, the centre of her system ; the 
sun from which all her beams of benefi- 
cence are to radiate. And now that as, 
with each latening summer day, the con- 

Second Thoughts Are Best. i6i 

viction comes more frostily over her that 
this home is lost to her, this centre 
destroyed, this sun extinguished, her 
heart fails and shrinks at the prospect 
of having to reconstruct her whole future 
life on other principles, with other factors, 
and alone. 

Shall she, until she sees her way more 
clearly before her, accept some of the 
invitations that, being young, most fair, 
and with ;^20o,ooo, she has received to 
a score of good houses ? She has not 
the spirits for it ; she of late so robustly 
cheerful, so innocently gay! Shall she 
travel? Whither? With whom? Why? 
Shall she set on foot an establishment 
of her own ? Careless of the conven- 
tionalities as Burnet has often irefuUy 
found her, she is yet well aware that 
her age absolutely precludes the possi- 
bility of her living alone ; and to search 
among a list of decayed gentlewomen 

VOL. II. 31 

1 62 Second Thoughts, 

for a companion of her daily life, instead 
of the warm and intimate circle of tender 
kindred that she had expected, is more 
than her fortitude can face. 

The possession of that fortune, from 
which, in her own mind, she dates all 
her ills, is in itself an irksome and 
anxious burden to her. Conscientiously, 
painfully desirous of putting it to the 
best and noblest uses, she is yet as 
ignorant as a child of how to set about 
it. Who is to guide her? What, save 
her own good sense and judgment, of 
which of late she has conceived the 
deepest, honestest mistrust, is to hinder 
her from becoming the dupe of impostors 
and charlatans ? Added to all these 
causes of irresolution and delay, there 
is yet another : a vague but powerful 
aversion from doing anything that may 
commit her to any decided course of 
action ; a hope so intangible that it can 

Second Thoughts Are Best, 163 

hardly be called more than the wraith 
of one — a hope mistily floating ahead of 
her, never fully grasped, but yet of 
potency enough to make all projects 
that exclude it impossible to her — a hope 
built upon three kind words and a 
broken voice. 

And so it is that now, though August 
— to outward eye the same, still golden, 
still suave, still questionless summer — 
has changed its name and become ^Sep- 
tember, Gillian still loiters here. It is 
Wednesday, and market-day, and all the 
blazing noon, and ^the long afternoon, 
Gillian has spent standing in the Tem- 
perance-room (for at least this one 
among all her institutions she has suc- 
ceeded in setting, however ricketily, on 
its legs again) — standing and pouring out 
cups of steaming tea, cutting slices of 
sultry beef, and melting bread and butter; 
wooing the market -people with ginger- 


164 Second Thoughts, 

beer and mutton-pies. But sturdily as 
she has kept her place, her chief gains 
at the day's end seem to be her aching 
head and weary legs. Of her former 
customers the attendance has been scanty 
and discouraging. Possibly the arbitrary 
and unexplained closing of it three months 
ago, has given them a rooted distrust of 
the establishment, and made them return 
with remorseful fondness to the public- 
houses, that never change their minds, 
that depend upon the whims of no 
young misses or madams, that are always 

And so it is that, towards evening, 
Gillian — all hope of further applicants 
being extinct — turns to leave her hot 
kitchen, and the viands that had seemed 
to her in the morning so appetising, 
and that look so repulsive now; and, 
with throbbing temples and low spirits, 
climbs the hill home again. Arrived 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 165 

there, she finds Jane and her brother 
engaged in one of those single combats 
which are now of daily recurrence : she 
shaking him by his small shoulders, 
loudly threatening him with flagellation, 
bread and water, school ; he kicking 
and wriggling, apostrophising her as an 
*ugly old beast,' and expressing a sob- 
bing wish for her early decease. 

Perhaps, on another occasion, when 
her temper was better under her con- 
trol, and her nerves less irritated by 
previous friction, she might have wisely 
abstained from interference ; heeding 
the cautious saw which tells us that 

* They who in quarrels interpose 
May chance to get a bloody nose.' 

But her feelings have already, through 
the ill-success of her day's labours, beeo 
upset, her mind unstrung, and her body 
is tired and uncomfortable. Add to 
which, that of all the rubs of her daily 

1 66 Second Thoughts. 

life of late, Jane's mode of education 
with regard to little Dick — consisting, as 
it does, of alternate foolish coaxings and 
angry cuffs — has been one of the worst. 
At her first entry the little boy has fled, 
lustily roaring, to her arms ; and is now 
stammering out the narrative of his 
grievances and his hatred of Jane on her 

* Leave him alone !' cries Miss Latimer 
commandingly, with flashing eyes, as she 
sees symptoms on the part of Miss 
Marlowe of advancing to reclutch her 
victim ; ' don't dare to touch him ! You 
are not fit to be trusted with him, and 
so I warn you that I shall tell Uncle 

* Pray do !' replies Jane, pertly. * I am 
sure you have my full permission. I 
am not at all afraid of papa's misjudg- 
ing my motives, or disapproving my con- 
duct !' 

Second Thoughts Are Best, 167 

' You are ruining the child !' cries 
Gillian, still flashing -eyed and panting; 
* ruining his temper, his manners, 
his ' 

* Am I indeed ?* interrupts Jane, in- 
solently. * I must say I should have 
thought I might be trusted to manage 
my own little brother. I think it would 
be a blessing if some people would learn 
to mind their own business !* 

This is the highest flight of imper- 
tinence that Jane's wing has yet dared, 
and for a moment Gillian stands stunned 
and aghast at it. Then, * Leave the 
room, Jane !' she says majestically, point- 
ing to the door. 

It is rash to give orders that you 
have no means of enforcing. 

* Leave the room !' repeats Jane coolly, 
seating herself deliberately in an arm- 
chair. * You must be joking ! Why 
should I leave my own drawing-room ?* 

i68 Second T/ioughts, 

'Then I will leave it myself/ cries 
Gillian, perceiving too late her error. * I 
will not stay to be so spoken to.' 

So saying, she turns precipitately, yet 
with a grandiose gesture, to quit the 

Her voice is raised and shaking ; her 
cheeks are scarlet ; her grey eyes like 
furious fires. It is not the moment which, 
were she given her choice, she would select 
for a visitor to present himself to her ; 
and yet such an one is even now standing 
in the doorway ; standing — the footman's 
announcement of his presence having been 
drowned in the noise of their conten- 
tion — standing unperceived, irresolute, 

In a moment she has recognised him. 
It is Burnet — Burnet, whose first intro- 
duction to her in the bosom of the family 
of which she has always represented her- 
self as the one prime blessing and Para- 

Second Thought s^ Are Best. 169 

clete is to find her thus a raging Msenad 
— a scolding shrew. 

For a moment, the shock of that sur- 
prise strikes her dumb and still. Then 
the full shame and humiliation of the 
situation rushing over her, she recovers 
the power of motion ; but the sole use 
she makes of it is to stumble past him, 
without attempting any greeting, out of 
the room, out of the house ; nor has he 
the cruelty to try to arrest her. 

How long she strays in confused red 
misery about the blooming garden, with 
bursting temples and thundering heart, 
she does not know. The time seems to 
her unendingly long. 

By-and-by, as the minutes pass and 
pass, a dread, even greater than that 
which has hitherto possessed her of 
meeting him with her disfigured face 
and Tprostrated pride, takes possession of 
her; the dread that she may not meet 



170 Second Thoughts, 

him ; that he may go away without 
making any further attempt to see her. 
The thought that the last impression he 
may carry away of her is that of a loud 
Xantippe, wrangling in a vulgar brawl, is 
more than she can bear. 

A panic seizes her. Perhaps he has 
gone already. She hastens to a spot 
whence she can command the road by 
which she knows he must depart ; the 
, back drive, a straight avenue of tall 
old elms, running up to a grey pillared 
gate with stone balls at the top. There is 
no sign of him. She hastens to the stable- 
yard. At least he is still here ; the dog- 
cart that brought him stands horseless, with 
its shafts resting on the ground, as if it 
meant to make some stay. 

She returns to the back drive, to a spot 
which he must needs pass, and whence she 
can at least wave her tear-soaked pocket- 
handkerchief, and smile at him as he rolls 

Second Thoughts A^-e Best, i^ji 

away. By-and-by she sees him issue 
from the hall-door alone, and begin to 
cast his eyes around as one that seeks 
some one or something. It is what she 
has wished and anxiously hoped, and yet 
now that she is assured that her fears 
were vain, that he does not mean to de- 
part without exchanging a word of some 
sort or other with her, that potent shame 
again assumes the mastery. 

She stands perfectly still, perversely 
almost desiring that he may miss the 
glimmer of her white gown behind the 
elm-tree boles. But by eye as keen and 
careful as his, the thing sought seldom 
remains unfound. In a moment she sees 
that he is making straight for her. In 
another moment he is standing beside her, 
and they have shaken hands. At first 
neither speaks. Then : 

' I — I — came to say good-bye to you,^ 
he says in an awkward voice, and look- 

172 Second Thoughts. 

ing extremely embarrassed — * I must be 
oroing r 

" Must you ?' she answers, in a tone 
to the full as constrained and uneasy as 
his own. * I suppose so ; it is a fine 
•evening. You will have a pleasant 

' Yes/ he answers mechanically, * I 
^hall have a pleasant drive !' 

They are both silent for a space, look- 
ing at the little serene picture before them — 
a low grey church-tower, a cluster of ash- 
trees, and a lilac fell, all framed between 
the rough elm-stems. By-and-by she 
speaks : 

* I am evidently an impossible person to 
live with,' she says, with a watery smile. 
* You remember how you and I used to 
fall out, and now you see on what footing I 
am here !' 

Under the circumstances, this is an 
observation to which it would be difficult 

Second Thoughts Are Best, 173. 

to find an agreeable, and at the same time 
unimpeachably truthful answer. He wisely 
does not make the attempt. He does not 
even look towards her. His eyes are 
staring at the evening fields, seen under 
the arms of a great ash tree to be all one 
dazzling green ; not a hawkweed nor a be- 
lated buttercup breaking the aftermath's 
rich same verdure. 

Probably, to his town-tired eyes the 
verdancy of the deep pastures is unendingly 

* I will not ask you what you think of 
my veracity,' she goes on, with a tremulous 
laugh, * after the travellers' tales I used ta 
tell you about my influence and my useful- 
ness here. They tally so well with what 
you have just seen, don't they } But, in- 
deed — indeed,' turning her face towards, 
his averted one, and speaking with an 
accent of plaintive eagerness, * it was not 
always like this. I exaggerated my own 


174 Second Thoughts, 

I value, of course, as you know I always have 
done ; but I was of use — they did love me 
— they did respect me !' 

She breaks off, choked with mortified 

* I am sure they did,' he says, in a moved 
voice, looking extremely uncomfortable ; 
^ I have not the least doubt of it.' 

' Do you remember,' she says, wiping 

her eyes, and smiling painfully, * one day 
when I was bragging to you about how in- 
dispensable I was to them, and that I 
•could not bear to think of how much they 
were missing me, you told me I might con- 
sole myself, for that no doubt they were 
doing very well without me }' 

* Did I 1' he answers drily. ' I had no 
idea of being a prophet ; I only meant to be 

' But you see it came true,' she says, 
shaking her head. 

Again they are silent. The evening 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 175 

waxes late, and the face of the valley is 
changed. Here, on this side of it, they 
stand in shade ; but seeing the mystic flush 
reflected on the faces of the rose-red hills 
on the other side, they know that the great 
pageant of the sun's death is going on out 
of sight behind them. 

* What a sunset there must be to be seen 
from the hill-top !' she says presently, 
in a low voice. * Shall we — will you 
come ? If we make haste, we might see 

She has half-stretched out her hand 
in friendly invitation towards him, then 
suddenly draws it back ; while a sincere 
regret at having offered the invitation, 
mixed with an almost certain apprehension 
of having it refused, is redly painted on 
her face. 

For a moment he hesitates, looking un- 
certainly from her to the flushing fells, and 
from the flushing fells to her. Then, as 

T)6 Second Thoughts, 

if the deprecation of her look, expecting yet 
still dreading a rebuff, were too much for 
him, he says quickly : 

* Yes, by all means. I will come ! 
After all, there is no reason why I should 

The last clause of his sentence seems 
addressed rather to himself than to her. 
Without another word they turn, and begin 
to walk briskly towards the hoary grey 
stone gateway, above which the elms, high 
aloft in the air, wave ever in a green em- 
brace. They must make haste, if they 
hope to gain one flaming glimpse of the 
westering king before he parts. Perhaps 
this is why it is in such almost total silence 
that they together breast the hill and the 
sharp fresh evening wind. 

On the summit of a slope ahead of them, 
they see the feeding cattle outlined against 
the sky. From the spot where they are 
pasturing, they must have the fullest 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 177 

prospect of what he and she are panting 
to attain. They do not even lift their 
placid heads. They do not think it worth 
looking at. When at length, warm and 
breathless, with tingling veins and beating 
pulses, they stand on the desired crest, 
they find that the pageant is over — the 
lights put out ; it is all grey, all gone ! 
They are just too late. 

* I must beg your pardon,' she says, 
sinking down on the thymy turf, and 
speaking between quick short breaths ; 
* I have brought you on a fools 
errand !' 

He nods assentingly, and, after again 
looking irresolute for a moment, seats 
himself beside her. 

* If we had set oft just five minutes 
earlier,' she says, her eye straying discon- 
tentedly over the now uniformly grey- 
wimpled fells ; ' if — with a slight accent 
of annoyance — * you could have torn your- 

voL. II. 32 

178 Second Thoughts. 

self away five minutes earlier firom the 
delights of Jane's society !* 

At her tone an ironical smile of amuse- 
ment and malice curves his serious 

*Was it my fault that I was left tite- 
ct'tite with her ?' he answers drily. 

* Uncle Marlowe says/ begins Gillian, 
slowly and nervously watching the effect 
of her words out of the corner of one 
anxious eye, * that she reminds him a good 
deal of me P 

* Of you ?' slightly raising his eyebrows ; 
' indeed !* 

There is in his tone no evidence of 
acquiescence in the Squire's opinion ; but, 
on the other hand, there is scarcely more 
of astonishment and indignation than there 
was in Sophia Tarlton s when the same 
communication was made to her. 

* Miss Tarlton says that she sees what 
he means,' pursues the girl rather falter- 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 179 

ingly ; * perhaps' (directing another un- 
easy glance at her companion's eager face 
— eager even when in repose) — * perhaps 
you agree with her ; perhaps you think 

that he is right ?' 

The smile has been spreading evidently 
against his will from his mouth to his 

* I can only suppose/ he says un- 
readily, ' that what he means to imply 
is that you are both rather fond of your 
own way.' 

This suggestion, even though advanced 
with some diffidence, is more than Gillian 
can bear. 

* Both ! both !' she cries, reddening ; ' is 
it possible that you bracket us together? 
Well,' with an accent of profound morti- 
fication, * however much alike we may be, 
and, according to the combined testimony 
of our friends, apparently are— one thing 

is certain, and that is that we cannot go on 


i8o Second Thoughts. 

much longer living in the same house 
together !' 

* You think not ?' in a tone of interested 
grave attention. 

* I am certain of it/ she answers empha- 
tically ; * how she has compassed it, I 
cannot tell. I suppose/ with a resentful 
eye-flash at him, * that since we resemble 
each other so much I ought to know, but 

1 I do not ; but at all events, by some 


! means she has managed to supplant me 

in my place, my duties, my rights !* 

* Your rights !* he repeats bluntly, and 
not looking at her ; * what rights ? I can- 
not for the life of me see that you have 

Then, perceiving that she is too much 
thunderstruck by this new view of the 
case to be able to reply, he goes on 
drily : 

* I thought I had always understood 
-even from yourself that you were only a 

Second Thoughts Are Best. i8i 

locum tenens — a locum tenens until Miss 
Marlowe grew up. There can be no 
doubt as to her being grown up now !' 
(with a smile at the recollection of Jane's 
elaborate manners). 

* Grown up !' repeats Gillian, recovering 
the use of her angry tongue at this last 
stroke ; * she is a mere child ! You all 
combine for some reason to make her out 
a woman, but in reality she is only a child, 
barely sixteen.' 

* She looks eighteen,' replies Burnet, 
stoutly ; undaunted apparently by an en- 
kindled eye and a vermeil cheek, and 
sticking to his point with British tenacity — 
' I should have thought her eighteen, if 
not,' with a rather teasing smile, ' nine- 
teen or twenty !' 

* You are of course joking,' says Gillian, 
with a slight return to her old loftiness of 
manner. * I think, please, that if you can- 
not help making merry over what to me at 

1 82 Second Thoughts. 

least IS an extremely serious matter, I 
should prefer that we should not dis- 
cuss it.* 

So trenchantly speaking, she turns away 
both neck and head, and fixes her dis- 
pleased grey eyes on a little round hill 
in the foreground, intensely green in the 
vanishing light ; a little hill crowned by a 
handful of slender ash-trees, and a small 
old-fashioned Belvedere, built by some 
forgotten Marlowe for his forgotten 
children and friends to hold their long-dead 
summer frolics in. It is Burnet who first 
breaks the silence. 

* I am very sorry for you,' he says pre- 
sently, wrinkling his brows uneasily, and 
in a rather grudging tone. * I know that 
it was so wholly unexpected by you ; I 

know that formerly, in Street, you 

were always counting the hours till you 
could get back to them here.' 

*Was I ?' she says, a little unreadily, 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 183 

her heart giving but a doubtful adhesion 
to this statement, *At all events/ going 
on more fluently, ' I always reckoned upon 
this as sure standing-ground, wherever 
else the earth might give way under ^ 
my feet ; and now that this has crumbled 
away, I do not think I quite know how to 
take it — I am at sea !* 

Her eyes are still absently fixed on the 
Belvedere and the little hillock's turfy 
slopes, and she has put up her hand to 
her forehead as if the movement might 
help to clear her brain. He makes no 
answer, but she does not miss the lacking 
reply. Whether he speak or not, is he 
not sitting here beside her on the twilit 
fell side — not in a hurry, not over tired, 
with his anxious brow cleared and his 
eager look at rest "i There is to her 
at once repose and tonic in that know- 

By-and-by she turns to him with an ani- 

184 Second Thoughts, 

mated air ; her whole expression changed 
and enlivened. 

* After all/ she cries eagerly, *do you 
think that it can be quite such a hopeless 
case even yet ? What do you say ? What- 
ever age Jane may look' — with a slight 
resentful stress — *she is in reality only 
sixteen : surely' — with an air of returning 
confidence — * I ought to be able to manage 
a girl of sixteen !* 

He shakes his head. 

' I would not try/ he answers laco- 

* Would not you ?' rejoins she, redden- 
ing and unconvinced. * I cannot think ' 
— with a touch of pomposity — * that it is 
right to turn back merely because there 
are difficulties in the path of duty.' 

* But it is not the path of duty !' objects 
f he, brusqudy ; * you are deceiving yourself ! 

^ Miss Marlowe is in her rightful place — the 
, place of which you were only the pro- 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 185 

visional and temporary occupant. She is 
pleased ; her father is pleased ; everybody 
is pleased. I cannot see ' — with great 
seriousness — 'that you have any business 
to interfere.' 

For a moment she loses the power of 
speech ; then, 

* Is it possible }' she says, in a deeply- 
wounded voice — * has it come to this ! 
that you, even you take part with her 
against me !' 

* It is no question of taking part !' he 
cries impatiently, annoyed at her feminine 
lack of logic. * I never saw her, to my 
knowledge, before to-day, nor have any 
special wish ever to see her again. It is 
a question of abstract right and justice. 
If I see you, through a wrong-headed 
notion of duty and principle, on the high 
road to set a whole family by the ears, I i 
think the kindest office I can do you, is to 
disabuse you.* 

1 86 Second Thoughts. 

Even to himself his words, as he speaks 
them, sound harsh ; and they are not well 
out of his mouth before he has repented 
himself of their severity : all the more 
when he sees their effect on the hurt 
mobile face beside him. 

At first it is clear that an angry retort 
has leapt to her tremulous lips, but with 
great difficulty she swallows it back ; and 
after fighting with herself for several 
moments, speaks almost humbly : 

' I daresay that you are right ; it is not 
the first time that you have made scales 
fall from my eyes — have made me see 
myself as I am. But if, as I now quite 
agree with you, I am not wanted here ; if I 
am in the way, and they would all do better 
without me — what do you advise me to 
do with my life "i what do you think had 
better become of me ?* 

As she speaks she turns her sad and 
mortified eyes, reft of all their confidence 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 187 

and pride, half-obscured by scalding tears, 
full upon him. There is such a meek 
abandonment of her own judgment, such 
an entire leaning on his guidance ex- 
pressed in her whole air and gestures — in 
the very pose of her pliant body, and in 
each quivering feature, that for a moment 
the harsh mentor s self-control goes nigh 
to playing him false. 

* I know,* she continues presently, a 
little dashed by receiving no encourage- 
ment from him to go on, * that I have no 
possible right to tease you with my diffi- 
culties, any more than I have any other 
ordinary acquaintance ; but I suppose' — 
very apologetically — ' that it is the force of 
habit : I had got into the way of looking 
to you for counsel and direction.' 

* I would help you if I could,' he 
answers ungraciously, without glancing at 
her, *but in so serious a matter as the 
choice of a whole mode of life, you could 

1 88 Second Thoughts. 

not expect me to take upon myself the 
responsibility of influencing you !* 

* Of course not/ she answers faintly, 
but her heart sinks. 

* There is not the slightest fear of a 
woman in your position lacking advisers/ 
he goes on harshly, plucking with a 
gesture of intense nervous irritation at the 
small thyme-sprigs beside him ; * and even 
if there were, I, for my part, think that 
you are very well calculated to stand 

At the cold and nipping severity of his 
words her lips tremble. 

' Do you think so ?* she says in a 
wounded tone. 

At the little plaintive quiver in her voice 
he catches his breath. To match that 
quiver there are doubtlessly two great salt 
drops hanging, ready to fall on her brown 
lashes. If he sees them, he is undone. 

* I do not think about it,' he answers 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 189 

brutally, almost turning his back upon 
her as he speaks. * I am certain of 

There is a silence, broken at last by- 

* Do you remember,' she says timidly (for 
the tone of his last sentences has chilled 
her to the marrow of her bones) — ' but of 
course you do, for I dinned it well into 
your ears — how I used to boast of my 
charities here, of how admirably I managed 
them, and how prosperous they were } 
Well, let me tell you' (with a bitter 
smile), * that they have, one and all, 
collapsed F 

As she speaks she raises her hands in 
the air, and lets them fall again, as if to 
express, by pantomime, the complete- 
ness of the ruin that has overtaken her 
infant-schools and adult drunkards, her 
Bands of Hope, and other social re- 

190 Second Thoughts. 

* Have they, indeed ?' he says, in a 
rather gentler tone. 

*And so now/ she continues wearily, 
but with a shade of irony, * however 
high may be your opinion of my strength 
of mind and self-sufficingness, I really have 
not the heart to begin all over again — 
to repeat in great the failures I have 
already made in little ; to blunder on 

without anyone to help me, and 

alone !* 

She hesitates an instant before pro- 
nouncing the last word, and her voice 
sinks slightly in uttering it. 

About the fells is gathering the mystery 
of eve ; they look both loftier and more 
far than they did at noon. A light ex- 
halation begins to dim the meadows. 

* There is no reason I suppose why 
you should be alone,* he says bluntly, 
after an interval — an interval spent in 
who shall say what hard fighting ! 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 191 

* None whatever/ she answers quietly, 
but with bitterness. * I might of course 
engage a lady companion — certainly no 
one would object ; and no doubt there 
are plenty of poor gentlewomen who, for 
the sake of bread, would consent to submit 
to even my humours/ 

* That is not what I meant,' he says 

' Then I suppose,* rejoins she in a 
collected voice, that contrasts with his 
evident discomposure, * that you must 
be alluding to the likelihood of my 
marrying ?' 

* Of course I am,* he answers almost 
rudely, again with that feverish pluck- 
ing at the mountain grass ; * to what 
else r 

She shakes her head. 

* It is possible, but not probable.* 
There is another pause. The mists 

192 Second Thoughts. 

are gaining body; thicker and whiter 
they surge in the valley. 

* I hope/ he says in a hurried voice, 
breathing short and unevenly, * that you 
have made no rash vow — for your own 
sake, I must express a hope that you 
have taken no Quixotic resolution— -or 
that if you have, you will break it as 
soon as possible/ 

* I have taken no Quixotic resolution,' 
she answers, slowly repeating his words, 
and rising as she speaks from the dew- 
moistened turf. * I do not suppose 
that the prospect of missing what is 
best in life is any sweeter to me than 
it would be to any other girl of my 


* I am very glad to hear it,' he says 
almost inaudibly, and whitening. 

* But for all that/ she says very soberly, 
and shaking her fair head, * I cannot help 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 193 

thinking — that I shall remain — as I am — 
until my dying day.* 

As she ends, she lifts, as if suddenly 
impelled by some resistless inward might, 
her steel-grey eyes to his, which, for 
this once, are powerless to escape them ; 
and, for a long moment, while the hills 
darken and the soft mists wreathe and 
twine, he looks with reluctant silent 
passion into her very soul. But it is, 
and remains silent. By-and-by, with a 
chill shiver of disappointment, she turns 

* It grows late/ she says; Met us 


Then, without another word, they turn 

and descend the hillside. 

Ten minutes later, she is watching 
him from her window, as he drives away 
and is lost in the falling night. 

VOL. II. i2> 

194 Second Thoughts. 

' Wicked, wicked pride !' she cries, clasp- 
ling her hands in a spasm of impotent 
/pain; 'there is nothing, nothing but you 
I between us !' 


' Wamm sind denn die Rosen so blass, 

O sprich, mein Lieb, wanim ? 
Wamm siod denn, im griinen Gras, , 
Die blaueti Veilchen so stumm ?' 

SHE may stand as often as she pleases, 
looking across the dance and quiver 
of elm-leaf shadows that daily hold their 
merrymaking in the back drive, but not 
again does she see him pass, either in dog- 
cart, on horseback, or on foot, between 
the stone walls of the grey-pillared back- 

I think that he is in no hurry to repeat 
the fell-side ordeal. And meanwhile the 

196 Second Thoughts. 

rich summer latens. The shadows now 
hasten, now tarry upon the hills' fair flanks ; 
the heather, made all of kings mantles, 
spreads its opulent purple ; before fresh 
winds the clouds career in lovely shapes 
along the sky. 

And at all these sweet sights, so dearly 
loved by them both, it only lies with him 
that they should be daily and hourly 
together looking. He could come on no 
moment of the day when her heart 
was not awaiting him. And he comes 
not at all. 

After that first visit of compelled 
courtesy, he refrains himself and comes 
not. At first she attributes his non- 
appearance to accident, and to the mono- 
polising nature of Miss Tarlton*s atten- 
tions. Her jealousy of Sophia — of late 
well-nigh extinct — begins again to smoulder 
into flame. In imagination she daily 
makes a third in the little expeditions 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 197 

in Anne*s basket-carriage, which, before 
his arrival, Sophia had overtly planned. 
And yet, after all, as time reveals to 
her, it is not Sophia who is in fault. 

One day she has • been sitting for a 
listless hour on that very spot on the fell- 
side where the falling dew and the hasten- 
ing night had evertaken them ; her eyes 
fixed on the Belvedere and the deep 
verdure of Sellet Bank, reconstructing, as 
she has done a score of times before, his 
speech and her own, and trying to extract 
from it elements of hope and promise, 
which it cannot reasonably be made to 

She is sauntering now in limp dejection 
back to the house, when, passing through 
the stable-yard, her eyes fall on a pony- 
carriage — undoubtedly the Tarlton pony- 
carriage ; and on a pony — undoubtedly also 
the Tarlton pony — being led off, hot and 
harnessed, to a stall. 

igS Second Thoughts. 

In a moment, the blood that five minutes 
ago seemed hardly to be crawling through 
her slow veins, sets off in eager frisk 
through her young system. He has come 
at last ! Sophia has evidently driven him 

Eager to lose no moment of his long- 
delayed presence, she hastens to the 
morning-room ; taking off her light hat ; 
and passing her hand over her smooth 
hair, as she goes. At the door she must 
needs pause for a minute to gather breath 
and calmness. Yes, there is certainly a 
man*s voice. She turns the handle, and, 
confused yet confident, enters. 

There are only four persons in the 
room : Jane, in lofty hostess- wise — for it 
is as much as even she can do to keep 
the Tarlton familiarity in check — discours- 
ing Anne; and Sophia in sprightliest 
dialogue with the Squire. He has not 
come after all ! Even in this moment of 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 199 

supreme disappointment, it flashes across 
her mind to wonder how the Squire can 
have been taken thus unawares ; for 
' surely, unless privily trapped and over- 
taken, he would never have fallen thus 
a prey to his lifelong bugbear, morning 

She looks across at him in half-compas- 
sionate inquiry, to see with what measure of 
fortitude he is bearing the infliction ; but, 
to her surprise, finds that she may keep 
her commiseration for herself, who alone 
needs it. 

He does not look quite like himself 
it is true. There is a nameless some 
thing that is odd about him ; but, what- 
ever that something may be, she can 
detect no trace of ennui on the broad 
ruddiness of his good-natured face. 
Thinking that she will at all events give 
him the opportunity of escape by taking 
Sophia off" his hand, she seats herself 

200 Second Thoughts, 

beside the latter; but is immediately 
beckoned away by Anne, who however, 
when she has obeyed her summons, does 
not appear to have anything to impart 
that justifies or explains it. 

Jane has taken the opportunity of her 
cousin's entry to sail out of the room ; her 
hands spanning her waist, with a d^gagi 
air that seems to say that the visitors are 
none of hers, and that she washes her 
hands of them. 

* You drove over in the pony-carriage ?* 
says Gillian, making a great effort to 
speak lightly, and passing her hand over 
her face, to ascertain by touch, if possible, 
whether it looks as blank and grey as she 
feels it. 

* Yes,' replies Anne, glancing at her 
dog-skin gloves ; * the pony was so fresh, 
he nearly pulled my arms off.' 

' I suppose ' — growing reassured as to 
there being anything strange in her own 

Second Thoughts Are Best, 20 r 

appearance by the slightness and cur^ 
soriness of her friend's survey of her — * I 
suppose that you are alone again — that 
— that — you have lost your guests ?* 

* The Burnets ?* replies Anne, care- 
lessly. * No. Sophia teased him to 
drive her over here to-day, but he cut 
her very short — you know, poor man, that 
manners never were his strong point — 
and so, as she was determined to come 
over to-day, she made me drive her in- 
stead.' • 

* Determined to come over, was she ?' 
repeats Gillian, gratefully, thinking how 
incapable she would have been of such 
a flight of friendship in a like case ; * how 
very good-natured of her !* 

* Yes, very good-natured !' replies Anne, 
with a dryness of tone which somehow 
contradicts her apparent assent ; * but 
then you know we are such a good- 
natured family !' 

1202 Second Thoughts, 

As she speaks, she looks meaningly 
across at her sister, and Gillian naturally 
<loes the same. 

In the pause in their own talk they 
cannot help hearing what the Squire and 
Sophia are saying. It is Sophia who 
speaks : 

' I delight in him T she is saying in a 
rather patronising tone, *and so I think 
would you if you knew him really, I 
suggested his coming with me to-day, but 
he tells me that he has already paid his 
respects, and, as the pony-carriage is 
very cramping to a man's legs, I did 
not press it. He and his sister are both 
•characters in their way. I am sure you 
would think so. I wish* (laughing) *that 
you knew her. I assure you* (as if 
making a generous admission), * I quite 
like them both.' 

* Have not we changed our tune ?* 
5ays Anne, sotto voce^ with a malicious 

Second Thoughts Are Best, 203 

smile ; * it is such a blessing ! we hear 
no more about hospitals and professional 
men ! I suppose ' (sinking her voice 
still lower, and looking extremely know- 
ing) * that you see which way the wind 
sits now ?' 

* Which way the wind sits ?* repeats 
Gillian ; * indeed I do not.' 

By-and-by the Tarltons take their 
leave, and Gillian and her uncle stand 
under the elm boughs, watching them 
bowl away in their little chaise with 
their pulling pony uphill, towards the 
red sunset. 

* Thank you so much, dear!' says the 
^irl, her hand thrust affectionately through 
his solid arm, and her soft cheek gently 
chafing itself against his rough shoulder. 
* You have been really too good. I 
had no notion that you were such an 
actor. I am sure that no one who did 
not know you as well as I do would 

204 Second Thoughts. 

have ever guessed that you were not per- 
fectly happy, and in your element.' 

The Squire does not answer this fond 
encomium ; and if her conscience were 
not absolutely clear of having said any« 
thing that could produce such an effect, 
she would say that he looked rather 

'There is not anything very amusing, 
is there, dear,' she says, continuing her 
caress, *in the cackle of a parcel of 
girls, to a sensible old gentleman like 
you }' 

Is it possible that, for the first time 
in his life, he is withdrawing himself 
from her endearments "i that he is making 
an effort — faint, indeed, but perceptible — 
to shake off the pressure of her arm ? 

'To hear you talk, Gill,' he says in 
a voice of distinct vexation, 'one would 
think that I was eighty years old at 

Second Thoughts Are Best, 205 

From this day onwards it becomes 
hourly a deeper, bitterer certainty to 
Gillian that she must renounce that 
hope which of late has been the chief 
factor in her life-plans. Clutch it to 
her heart as desperately as she may, it 
must go. Other prosperities come pour- 
ing in upon her. A distant relation 
dies, and leaves her a further and un- 
expected addition to her fortune in lands, 
houses, shares in a bank, what not ? but 
to that one dubious good, which to many 
would seem no good at all, she must 
needs say farewell as bravely as she may. 
There can be now no doubt as to his 
intentional and resolved avoidance of 

Again and again have the Tarltons 
driven over — Sophia's friendship, in 
especial, seeming to grow ever warmer 
and warmer as the days shorten and 
cool ; but not once has his foot — natural 

2o6 Second Thoughts. 

and but barely civil as would be a visit, 
considering their acquaintance and former 
relation— crossed the threshold of Mar- 

And she can do nothing — nothing! 
She has already, as she sometimes with 
humiliated tears acknowledges to herself, 
gone further and done more than in consist^ 
ence with strictest maidenly dignity she 
ought to have done. There is nothing for 
it now but to wrestle valiantly with that 
pain which, in the world's eye, degrades 
the woman that smarts under it — the 
pain of an unshared love. 

But as we all desire to put off our 
day of execution, so Gillian, in her sad 
mind, defers the beginning of that fight 
which must certainly be long; which to 
herself she says will be endless, until he^ 
for whom it is waged, has left the neigh- 
bourhood. It is not worth while begin- 


ning as long as there is a chance, almost 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 207- 

a probability, of meeting him at any turn 
of the mountain-road, or any winding of 
the brawling Lune. 

One day, at luncheon, yielding to the 
hardly acknowledged hunger that gnaws, 
her, to see him once again, whether he 
will or no, before he parts, she suggests a 
visit to the Tarltons — a suggestion which 
to those to whom it is made seems inno- 
cent enough, but which suffuses her own 
conscious face with guilty blushes in 
making it. 

* You may do as you please, of course,*' 
replies Jane, grandly, * but it is no concern 
of mine ; they do not even condescend to 
ask for me when they call, as I took the 
trouble to inquire. I certainly shall not 
put myself out of my way to pay attentions, 
to people who choose to ignore me com-^ 
pletely in my own papa's house !* 

Gillian's spy-it cannot be what it was^ 
or she would have risen to this challenge.. 

2o8 Second Thoughts. 

As it is, a now habitual depression, coupled 
with a fear — ^perfectly needless— -of having 
the motives of her proposition suspected, 
keeps her silent, and the project would 
infallibly have fallen to the ground, 
had not aid come from an unexpected 

* I think. Gill,* says the Squire, partially 
shading his ruddy face with one hand, 
and idly balancing a fork upon the fingers 
of the other, * that I may be very likely 
— that it is not impossible — that I may 
be obliged to go — on business, somewhere 
in that direction, and I do not mind 
giving you a lift — part of the way — if you 

* Oh, thank you, dear !* cries Gillian, 
joyfully, her pleasure enhanced by this 
instance of display of spirit, and with a 
triumphant glance at Jane ; * it would be 

She is ready, feverishly ready and 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 209 

expectant, before the appointed hour, 
tapping the flags of the terrace with im- 
patient heels and awaiting her uncle. 
When at length he appears, drawing on 
with some difficulty a new pair of dog- 
skin gloves : 

* Why, what a dandy you are, dear \ she 
cries, regarding with an air of incredulous 
admiration the perfectly new Tweed suit 
which since they last parted he has 
endued ; the irreparable shabbiness of his 
clothes having been a lifelong subject of 
dispute between them. * You look as if 
you were going to a wedding.' 

* Pooh, nonsense !' cries he, reddening, 
hastily handing her into the phaeton, and 
immediately driving quickly off. 

Neither of them speaks much as they 


When they set off, the sky was for the 

most part one great continent of sober 

grey, broken here and there by little 

VOL. II. 34 

2IO Second Thoughts. 

islands of piercing blue ; but as they pass 
along, the smoky curtain is drawn aside, 
and the whole fair hill-country grows one 

The Squire is no great admirer of the 
beauties of nature; and if compelled by 
his companion of the moment to become 
aware of any special effect of sunshine and 
shade, of any unusual glory of violet fell 
or silver river, is wont to cry, * Beautiful ! 
beautiful !' without looking, and imme- 
diately change the subject. 

Knowing this peculiarity, Gillian makes 
no call upon him for admiration, and her 
reticence costs her the less that to-day 
her own sense of the joy and beauty of 
earth seems numb and cold. She looks at 
the fells as if she were looking at them 
through a crape veil. As they reach the 
Tarltons* lodge : 

' Thank you, dear,* she says, making a 
movement as if to alight, * I need not 

Second Thoughts A re Best. 211 

take you farther out of your way — I will 
walk up to the house.' 

* Nonsense ! nonsense !' he cries, and, 
to avoid further discussion, turns briskly 

As they trot through the park, her heart 
begins to pulse fast yet not pleasurably, 
in anxious deprecation of a new disap- 
pointment. She seems to have had so 
many of late. Is he here still? or has 
not, as is far more probable, his holiday 
run out } Is he gone } 

She looks wistfully, as if consulting them, 
at the copses, the cattle blandly ruminating, 
the thorn-bushes. C)o they look as if he 
were still here ? Arrived at the hall-door, 
and having ascertained that Mrs. Tarlton 
is at home, she turns again to her uncle 
with fresh thanks. 

' Au revoir^ dear!* she says pleasantly. 
'You need not trouble to send back the 
carriage for me. I will walk home.* 


212 Second Thoughts. 

Who knows what pale hope may dictate 
the last clause of her sentence ? But to 
her surprise, the Squire has thrown the 
reins on the horses' backs, and shows 
every symptom of meaning to accompany 
her. He gives no explanation of this 
change of intention, beyond a murmur 
as to not wishing to seem unneighbourly, 
and as to its being perhaps more civil to 
look in for five minutes. 

Mrs. Tarlton and the young ladies are 
in the garden on the lawn-tennis ground, 
as the butler informs them, and thither 
they presently follow him. As they near 
the spot, the light thud of the balls against 
the racquets ; the noise of young voices 
crying out, in terms so dark to outsiders, 
the progress of the game, ' fifteen,' * thirty.' 
'fault,' *set,' break pleasantly on the crisp 
autumn air. Against the background of 
fells and flowers, the girls' light gowns, 
and the white flannels of the school-boy 

Second Thoughts Are Best, 213 

brothers, with whom they are playing, 
stand out in homely cheerfulness. 

It is one of the Tarlton family *s best 
moments — a moment that presents them 
united and picturesque. Beyond the 
tennis-ground, under the trees, a tea- 
table is spread, and garden-chairs stand 
in line. Who are the occupants of those 
chairs ? For a moment, Gillian dares 
not lift her eyes to ascertain. But the 
instant of suspense can be and is but 

At their approach the players have 
ceased their playing, and with racquets 
still in their hands and flushed smiling 
faces, have advanced to welcome them. 
At the same moment the portly form of 
Mrs. Tarlton begins to hoist itself out 
of the groaning depths of a wicker- 
chair. The rest of the chairs are empty, 
with the exception of one on which 
another elderly female figure remains 

214 Second Thoughts. 

seated. It is Miss Burnet who, with 
her back to the view, and her head tied 
up in a bag — that is, closely swaddled in 
a black gauze veil — is enjoying the country 
after her manner. 

* Did you meet John ?' she asks 
brusquely, when her turn to be greeted 
comes. * I have sent him to Kirkby to 
get me some pulsatilla; people may think 
it as odd as they choose, but I am a 
homoeopath !' 

' No, we did not,' replies the girl faintly, 
heart and voice failing at this sudden 
slaying of a hope which had been stronger 
than she had known. 

* It is not that I absolutely have a 
cold already,' continues Miss Burnet, 
pursuing that branch of the subject which 
has most interest for her ; * but it is well 
to take things in time, and one knows 
what a tickling at the top of the throat 

means. ' 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 215 

'We did not meet him/ repeats Gillian 
more distinctly, in the hope of recalling 
Miss Burnet to the original theme. But 
in vain. 

'There is nothing like pulsatilla for a 
tickling at the top of the throat/ she 
says decisively, and then relapses into 

By-and-by, Anne lures her friend away 
from the rest, in order to indulge in one 
of those confiding talks in which she is 
fond of turning outwards, for her benefit, 
the seamy side of the family history. 
It is not till all the skeletons in the 
Tarlton closet have been parading for a 
good half-hour before her mind^s eye, 
shown off to the best advantage by 
Anne's practised hand, that she has an 
opportunity of placing the quasi careless 
remark, which, ever since they have been 
alone, she has been internally practising : 

' I cannot think how we could have 

2i6 Second Thoughts. 


missed meeting Dr. Burnet. Has he 
been long gone ?' 

* He is a bear !' cries Anne pettishly, 
and making a face ; * he may be very good 
at cutting off arms and legs, but he is 
a bear ! As soon as he caught sight of 
you and the Squire coming up the drive, 
he was off like a shot.' 

* Was he ?* says Gillian, suddenly 
putting up her hand to hide the mouth, 
of the tightening of whose lines she is dis- 
tressfully conscious. 

We may govern our eyes, and the 
nose is no index of any sensation beyond 
heat and cold ; it is the treacherous 
mouth that, even when silent, blabs our 
secrets and undoes us. 

* How complimentary !' with a forced 
laugh. *Well, at all events, we cannot 
take it as a personal affront, fof he could 
not have recognised us at that distance.* 

* Oh, but he did though,' replies Anne, 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 217 

officiously, * for we all knew the carriage — 
nobody else about here drives roans — and 
cried out that it was you/ 

Gillian is painfully silent, and for a 
moment there is no sound but the light 
patter of horse-chestnuts on the walk, that 
in falling cleave and burst, and roll their 
burnished nuts out of the white-lined 
cradles that housed them. 

' I cannot think why Sophia dragged 
him here,' continues Anne, crossly ; * she 
always thinks that her own society is 
amusement enough for anyone, but I 
never can find that the rest of the world 

agrees with her.' 

Gillian's sole answer is a semi-articulate 
sound which is sufficiently like assent for 
Anne to proceed. 

*You know,' she says in a comfortable 
confidential voice, * that, between you and 
me, men do not take to Sophia as a rule. 
I cannot think why it is, I have often 

2i8 Second Thoughts. 

wondered ; but in this case the fact simply 
is that the poor man is dying to get back 
to his physic bottles/ 

* Then why does not he go to them ?' 
asks Gillian, speaking more slowly than 
her wont ; and in a measured voice that 
yet has a slight tremble in it. 

* Because he cannot leave us saddled 
with that old incubus/ replies Anne, indi- 
eating by a slight movement of the head 
the distant reclining form of Miss Burnet, 
*and nothing will induce her to stir; she 
says she is very well where she is, and she 
does not see why she should move. How- 
ever, I believe he is going to take the 
law into his own hands at last — that he 
has ordered a fly, and told her maid to 
pack up without letting her know, and 
that they really are off on Tuesday, and a 
very good thing too, say I,' giving a pettish 
kick* to one of the fallen horse-chestnuts on 
the walk. 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 219 

'A very good thing," repeats Gillian, 

She says it again to herself as she drives 
home, sitting silently by the Squire's side 
in the rose-stained sea of sunset that is 
washing over fell and valley. Is it not a 
good thing? Is not certainty better than 
suspense ? night than twilight ? despair 
than the sickly flicker of an extinguishing 
hope ? 


SHE is to be given one more chance. 
Her expiring hope is to give one 
more moribund quiver. If our hopes 
went all at once, we could better let them 
part. It is the tantalisation of their ups 
and downs, of their flamings and sink- 
ings, that makes the darkness into which 
they finally disappear, more black and 

The day before that of the Burnets' 
departure is Sophia Tarlton's birthday ; 
and, partly in celebration of it, partly 
as a farewell ovation — a burst of final 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 221 

affection for the guests, whose approach- 
ing departure has perhaps revived the 
somewhat flagging appreciation of their 
merits — she has organised a little ex- 
pedition. As it is in great measure 
given in their honour, and as the sister 
declines, with her usual uncompromising 
churlishness, to have anything whatever 
to say to it, it will be almost impossible 
for the brother to avoid taking his part 
in it. At least so Gillian reasons. Yet 
once more he will be compelled to be, 
and what is more, to be during several 
hours, in her company. 

* I cannot think why anyone so de- 
cidedly getting on in life as Sophia,' 
says Anne, privately — *you know she is 
twenty-seven, and I am sure she looks 
every day of it — should care to remind 
people of her birthday ; but I suppose 
for her present role she cannot be too 
old — the older the better.' 

222 Second Thoughts, 

' What do you mean ?' says Gillian, 
mystified. * What r6le ? 

But Anne only runs away laughing, 
and telling her that she is dull, and that 
there are none so blind as those who will 
not see. 

It is on the continuance of fine weather 
that the life of the excursion hangs, and 
now the weather breaks. It has held so 
long, that probably, now that it has once 
broken, there will be a continuance of 
storms and rain. The quicksilver daily 
sinks ; Ingleboro gathers his grey cloud- 
cloak sullenly round him ; the roads are 
deep in mud, and the river rises. No 
child, counting the hours to a rare holiday, 
has ever consulted the barometer, watched 
the signs of the sky, or asked counsel of 
the weather-wise among the country 
people, with a more anxious zeal, a 
more trepidating heart, than does Gillian 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 223 

The afternoon before t}ie appointed day 
has arrived, and there is no improvement 
in the aspect of heaven or earth. Too 
restless to remain indoors, Gillian strays 
in the driving rain, about the drenched 
and battered garden, looks disconsolately 
at the splashed and dispetalled geraniums, 
and listens to the sighing of the sad 
wind, from which all tone of summer has 

* It sounds well for your party of plea- 
sure, dear,* says Jane cheerfully at dinner 
that evening, as the great drops are heard 
beating on the pane outside. ' I must 
say I am not at all sorry; it will teach 
Miss Sophia not to make such a fuss 
about her fite, as she calls it, another 

But Jane's joy is premature. Contrary 
to all expectation, despite the angry and 
wintry -sounding night that has preceded 
it, the fateful morning rises fair and splen- 

224 Second Thoughts. 

did. The wind's giant arm has abolished 
the clouds from the sky, or piled them 
on the horizon, and the sun is sucking 
up earth's many tears. 

There is nothing to hinder Sophia's 
little gala from taking place. But oh, 
hard fate ! There is every reason why 
one member of the intended party should 
take no share in it. Of what use is it 
to Gillian that the sun shines, the breeze 
blows softly, and the flowers dry their 
wet cheeks and smile again, if- she her- 
self lies hopelessly prostrated by a 
murderous nervous headache. It may 
be caused by the anxiety of mind which 
she has been passing through, it may be 
due to atmospheric influences ; but what- 
ever may be the cause, the fact remains 
the same, that, at the very hour when 
the little cavalcade is setting forth on its 
afternoon's pleasuring. Miss Latimer lies 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 225 

prone — all mental pain swallowed up and 
extinguished by physical. 

It is one of those headaches against 
which the strongest will would be powerless 
to strive, which cries out for darkness and 
silence, and shuts out consciousness of all 
suffering save that inflicted by itself. It is 
only in a dull woolly way that she recog- 
nises the loss of her last chance, and 
numbly feels that though to-day nothing 
matters, to-morrow, when she is well, her 
heart will break. 

The long hours pass heavily by, and at 
length, worn out by agony, she falls into 
a sleep, out of which she wakes to find 
that the red-hot pincers are no longer 
tweaking her temples, nor the little 
devils boring with awl and gimlet into her 

Though still feeling bruised and shabby, 
she is tolerably herself again. She rises, 
and drawing the curtains and unbarring 

VOL. II. 35 

226 Second Thoughts. 

the carefully closed shutters, looks out on 
the waning light. 

With day's decline, the weather has 
again changed and worsened. Heaven s 
brows are gathered in their blackest frown, 
and the strong swift rain is racing down 

Now and again a grumble of thunder 
and a crooked fire-tongue vary the sound 
of the pelting storm and the sight of the 
sulky welkin. Gillian dresses hastily, and 
descends to the large sitting-hall, which 
looks out upon the terrace and the 
approach. Here she finds Jane, who has 
thought it due to herself not to lend her 
countenance to an excursion of which she 
was not the originator, standing with her 
nose flattened against the pane, looking 

*They ought to be home by now, 
surely,' cries Miss Latimer, in an anxious 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 227 

' Of course they ought/ replies Jane, 
gruffly. * I suppose they will be satisfied 
when they have drowned papa. I was 
mad to let him go.* 

* Surely they will not try the ford/ says 
Gillian, agitatedly — * they could not be so 
insane ! Why, the Lune has been rising 
for days.* 

* I put nothing past them,* rejoins Jane, 
crossly ; * one thing is certain, that if they 
do attempt it, they will all be carried 

Having arrived at this comforting con- 
clusion, they both sink into silence. For 
a good half hour they so stand uneasily 
waiting and listening, until at length their 
ears, nervously pricked, are rewarded by 
the sound of wheels intermittently heard 
through the now moderating rain. In 
their eagerness they are standing on the 
wet and gusty steps at the hall-door as 
the Tarltons' pony-carriage bowls up, and 


228 Second Thoughts, 

the Squire, with an alertness which clashes 
with his niece's idea of his reverend age, 
springs out and helps Sophia to alight — 
Sophia with her ulster-hood drawn over 
her head, and rain-drops trickling down her 
cold nose — Sophia, wet, yet beaming. 

* The rain was unlucky of course, but 
they have had a delightful day — one 
she shall never forget. To be sure they 
came by Kirkby Bridge ! how else ? The 
others ? oh, the others are close behind.' 

Altogether it appears that never was 
anxiety more futilely expended. 

* All the same, dear,' says Jane, hanging 
with a somewhat florid display of filial 
piety about the Squire's neck, and throwing 
thence a defiant glance at Sophia, ' you 
have given me a shocking fright, and I 
can assure you that I shall not let you do 
it again in a hurry.' 

Her father's only answer is to cry : 
* Very well, Jenny — very well !' in an 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 229 

awkward voice, and Sophia smiles sub- 

While they are yet uncloaking in the 
hall, the waggonette arrives with its 
freight : Emilia, Anne, and the two Tarl- 
ton boys — a freight as wet, but hardly 
so radiant, as the first detachment. 

Grumbling and chill, they gather round 
the bright hearth, and it is some time 
before anyone save Gillian, whose lips 
refuse to frame a question about him, 
remembers that one of the party is still 

' What have you done with Burnet i^* 
cries the Squire, suddenly looking round 
and counting heads. 

* He said he did not mind the rain, and 
that he would bring home the dog-cart,* 
replies Anne, shivering and creeping closer 
to the blaze ; * we did mind it very 

* Did anyone remember to warn him 

230 Second Thoughts. 

against the ford ?' asks the Squire, looking 
inquiringly round for an answer. 

' Of course his own sense would tell him 
that it was impracticable on such a night/ 
says Sophia, judiciously, * or the groom/ 

But it turns out that the groom is a 
stranger — a new and inexperienced helper 
lately imported into the neighbourhood. 

* I hope to heaven he was not such a 
fool as to try,' says the Squire, gravely ; 
*if he did, he has been swept away to a 
moral certainty.' 

They all assent, though not very emo- 
tionally — * To a moral certainty.' 

* However, no doubt it will be all right,' 
says the Squire, soon lapsing into his 
habitual sanguine cheerfulness. 

They all agree, ' No doubt it will be all 
right/ and thus philosophically concluding, 
troop away to dress for that dinner which 
has always formed part of the day's pro- 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 231 

In the case of a person in whom one 
is not very warmly interested, one always 
thinks it will be all right. 

As soon as they are gone, and there is 
no one left to observe her movements, 
Gillian slips out again at the hall-door, and 
stands once more on the dripping steps, 
, where she and Jane had but now awaited 
the return of the revellers. 

Even from there she can plainly hear 
the angry river roaring along ; the river 
that in fair weather steals so sweetly lisp- 
ing round its water-worn stones. The 
words so lightly spoken recur, freezing 
her blood with horror. What freight may 
even now its strong current be hurling and 
dashing along ! 

Half an hour passes. The rest of the 
party go to dinner, tranquilly observing 
that they wish he would turn up — that they 
are really very anxious about him, but 
that no doubt it will be all right. 

232 Second Thoughts. 

Gillian, exempted by her late headache 
from the necessity of joining them, returns 
to her post on the steps. By-and-by her 
fears take such an exaggerated hold of 
her ; her imagination presents to her 
pictures of so dreadful a vividness, that , 
this inactive waiting and listening grow 
intolerable to her. 

Without staying to think what con- 
struction will be put upon her absence if 
discovered, she hastily catches up a 
waterproof from a stand in the entrance- 
hall, thrusts her feet into a pair of all too 
roomy goloshes, and passes out on the 
terrace and thence to the front drive, 
down which she walks quickly. The 
storm is over, the clouds are breaking 
everywhere ; now and then letting the full 
moon look whitely through, and again 
peevishly hiding her. 


' A mighty pain to love it is, 
And 'tis a pain that pain to miss ; 
But of all pain the greatest pain 
It is to love and love in vain.' 

UNDERFOOT and all around it is 
wet — oh, drenchingly, drowningly 
wet ! As long as she is in the drive, 
which is all on an incline, and from which 
the water runs quickly, it is not so bad ; 
but when she reaches the high-road where 
the gutters race like torrents, and the 
moon sees herself angrily and brokenly 
reflected in the muddy puddles, then is 
the time. 


234 Second Thoughts. 

She stands and listens. There is no 
sound but the drip from the trees and 
the rush of the river. No wheel of be- 
lated farmer or slow waggoner is audible. 
Everyone is safely, comfortably housed 
from the fierce weather. Perhaps the 
river has got upon her nerves, already 
shaken by her long day s pain ; certainly 
she had no such deliberate intention when 
she set out, and yet she now begins to 
walk almost unconsciously towards the 
Lune ; along the road first, then turning 
in at a gate, she labours through heavy 
grass fields, where at each step the sticky 
soil pulls off her goloshes ; and finally by 
a flooded lane, where she has to hug the 
hedge-bank the whole way, she at length 
reaches the ford, or rather the place where 
the ford is wont to be. 

She has been urged on by the vague 
yet potent necessity of seeing for herself 
in what state it is. As she stands, deep- 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 235 

~~' ' — II - — 

rooted in mud, on the bank, and sees 
the once peaceful, sweet stream swirling 
and maddening along, and the fierce 
moon looking at herself in its shifting 
mirror, she shudders and is yet reassured. 
No one in its present state could have 
made the attempt to stem its stormy- 
waters. Had it run less high, the peril 
would have been less obvious, and con- 
sequently greater. 

With her fears partially relieved, and 
half-ashamed of her own apprehensions, 
beginning to wonder how she shall steal 
unobserved back into the house, she re- 
traces her steps through the lane that 
seems even wetter, and the fields heavier, 
than on her former transit. 

As she opens the gate to return into 
the road, she is aware of a foot-passenger, 
stoutly splashing along the swimming 
road in the direction of Marlowe. In a 
moment, the moon shining full on his 

236 Second Thoughts. 

face, she has recognised him on whom 
she has been expending all these futile 

* It is you !* she cries joyfully, forgetting 
for the moment everything in the relief 
of knowing that he is safe, and stepping 
hastily to meet him. 

At the sound of her voice, than which 
nothing less expected could break on his 
ear, he starts violently, and looks at her 
doubtingly, as if questioning to what world 
she may belong. 

*Yes, it is I,' he answers slow and 
bewildered ; * but is this you ? — that is 
much more astonishing !* 

In an instant his tone has recalled her 
to herself — her dignified reticent every- 
day self — has made her hotly conscious 
of her dishevelment, her mire, her 
goloshes, the compromising unwisdom ot 
her latest action. 

* I — I — grew nervous,' she says, stam- 

Second Thoughts A^x Best, 237 

niering. * I was anxious about the — the 

* Is it possible that they have not re- 
turned yet ?* he asks hastily. * They 
ought to have been home hours ago.* 

At his every word her humiliation 
grows deeper ; it is evident that he 
is unable to grasp the extent of her 

* They — are — all — back — now, ' she 

says reluctantly ; * all except ' she 


* All except me ?* in a voice of the 
deepest, most hesitating wonder. 

* I was afraid,* she says wretchedly, 
and again stammering, * that — ^that — being 
a stranger in the country, you would not 
know— that you might try the ford.* 

* To-night ?* elevating his eyebrows ; 
* would anyone but a maniac T 

She has not the spirit to attempt any 
answer — to set up any defence. She does 

238 Second Thoughts. 

not even lift her eyes from the puddle in 
which she is standing. After a pause : 

* Do I understand you aright ?' he says, 
with an odd vibration in his voice, which 
— heiress and beauty as she is — makes her 
proud heart, love-humbled, leap with 
the sudden up-flaming of that hope 
which of late has burnt so dim. * Is 
it possible that it was anxiety about me 
which has brought you out on such a 
night T 

' I did not wish you to drown,' she 
murmurs, hanging her head. 

There is a pause, during which the 
gutters run and the ash-trees drip. 
Though she is not looking at him, the girl 
is aware that Burnet has made several 
unsuccessful attempts at speech ; at length, 
in a quivering and uneven voice that con- 
trasts with and contradicts the cold and 
cruel civility of his words, he says : 

* I am exceedingly obliged to you — more 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 239 

than I can well express — but you were 
mistaken in thinking that there was any 

* So it seems/ she answers, feeling very 

* Before I had gone a quarter of a mile,' 
he continued, * the mare cast a shoe. I 
had to walk her all the way to Kirkby, 
and leaving her there, came on on foot.* 

* It was not only I that was alarmed,' 
she says, setting up an eager yet lame 
defence of that impulsive action of which 
she now so sincerely repents ; * my uncle 
— they all ' 

* Is it so indeed T he cries in a concerned 
voice ; * is it possible ? Do you mean that 
they are all now looking for me ?* 

* Well, no,* she answers, stammering 
and abashed — * not quite that ; they — they 
had to go to dinner !' 

For an instant a smile flashes across his 
face ; a smile — or so it seems, unless mis- 

240 Second Thoughts. 

read in the deceptive light — much more 
tender than amused. 

* You will catch cold/ he says in a rather 
unsteady voice, stepping a pace nearer to 

* I have a mackintosh/ she says, * and 
goloshes,' lifting, as she speaks, one from 
the puddle in which she is standing, in 
confirmation of her word ; one which 
having been originally three times too 
large for her, and with its size now quad- 
rupled by mire, shows colossal in the 

They both laugh, though neither is 
perhaps very mirthfully minded, and at 
once set off walking briskly towards the 
house. They are nearing the lodge before 
Gillian again speaks. 

* You are really off to-morrow ?* 

* Yes, really at last,' with an unmis- 
takable accent of relief. 

* That does not sound as if you had 

Second Thoughts Are Best, 241 

enjoyed your holiday much/ she says, 
laughing a little unnaturally. 

* I have not enjoyed it/ he answers 

There is such a flat depression in his 
tone, such an absence of hope or elasticity, 
that her own voice treipbles as she re- 
joins : 

* And yet you used to love the moun- 
tains ; if you remember, it was the one 
subject we were always agreed upon.' 

' Did I love them T he says, his keen 
eye wandering in eager melancholy over 
the nightly landscape, now made all weird 
and pearly by the vanquishing moon ; 
*then I think I have changed my mind. 
I think I hate them qow. Yes, fell and 
Lune and valley' — with gathering agita- 
tion — * I hate them all ! They have lent 
themselves to unmanly dreams.' 

For a moment she is silent, thrilled to 
the heart by the new emotion of his 

VOL. II. 36 

242 Second Thoughts. 

altered tones. Then lifting her eyes, meek 
and sweetly moon-washed, to his, she says 
softly : 

* I think that there are some dreams 
that are better than any waking !' 

For a while he regards her dumbly and 
irresolutely, then suddenly taking pos- 
session of her two delicate cold hands, he 
says to her low and most earnestly, as one 
whose words come straight and true from 
his very heart: 

* I think it is better I should tell you : 
there are voices that whisper to a man 
that, if he has a grain of self-respect, he 
had far better die than listen to. Such 
voices are whispering to me now ; if I 
gave heed to them, I should be almost 
as base as you once thought me. That is 
why I am glad I am going where they 
will be drowned, or at least muffled ; 
where, at all events, I shall not have 
leisure to hear them dinning into my 

Second Thoughts Are Best, 243 

ears from morn to night and from night 
to morn as they do now. If you have 
any real friendship for me/ speaking 
very emphatically, and in a tone of almost 
pathetic appeal, *as, despite our bad 
beginning,* with a painful smile, * I am 
almost sure that you have, you will be 
glad for me too.* 

So saying, and strongly wringing the 
hands he holds, he looses them, and, 
turning from her into a side-walk that 
leads through the shrubberies, dis- 

She remains standing alone in the 
moonlight, as one stunned. It is clear 
that he who had once told her that he 
would rather be flayed alive than wed 
her, is of the same mind still. 



THUS doubt ends. There are few 
of us that can specify with such 
exactness as can Gillian Latimer the 
precise moment and spot at which our 
life-hope finally goes out. On the wet 
drive at Marlowe, lucent pebbles under- 
foot, a ghosty moon overhead, and the 
distant lowering hills standing round as 
witnesses, it yields up its last breath. 
While it was alive — though sorely sick, 
yet not past all hope of recovery — her 
sleep has been broken and dream- 
thwarted ; to-night she slumbers pro- 

Second Thoughts Are Best, 245 

foundly — lies tranquil as a three-years 
child tired out with play. 

The morning rises murk and drear, 
with snatches of rain, and sobbing gusts 
of loudly-mournful wind. She does not 
know whether she is glad or sorry that 
it is so ; whether a shining sun and 
basking flowers would have comforted 
her pain or increased it. And that pain 
itself is more dull than violent ; so 
likelier, as she tells herself, to be a 

She goes down pale and calm. She 
feels as if a sort of solemnity en- 
wrapped her — a large, composed in- 
difference to the trivial, yet galling, rubs 
of her daily life ; as one whose soul is 
ebbing away at a death-wound may think 
himself invulnerable by pin-pricks or gnat- 
bites. Perhaps both are mistaken, and 
that the greater suffering by no means 
excludes the less. 

246 Second Thoughts. 

Breakfast passes over silently. Jane is 
swelling and panting with hurt dignity at 
the recollection that neither was her 
influence strong enough to prevent the 
yesterday's fitCy nor was her disapproba- 
tion, though markedly shown, able to 
lessen in any perceptible degree the 
hilarity of those who shared it. 

As to the Squire, were Gillian not so 
preoccupied, she could hardly fail to 
remark that the Squire is strangely un- 
like himself. His face, not usually over- 
charged with expression, wears a look 
pregnant with unknown meaning. He 
eats less than usual ; laughs where there 
is no joke, and answers at cross-pur- 

As his niece is in the act of leaving the 
room, she hears his voice — mysteriously 
altered too — pursuing her. 

* Are you busy. Gill ?' 

* I am never busy, dear,' she answers 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 247 

gently ; * you know that I have been 
relieved of all my occupations/ 

* If you do not mind ; if you can spare 
time' — nervously crumpling up his Times, 
which he has been reading upside down — 

* I should be glad if you would let me 
speak to you for five minutes. I — I want 
to ask your opinion.' 

' Mine, dear ?' with an irresistible little 
air of surprise and malice. * Are you sure 
that you do not mean Jane's ?' 

* No — no !' very eagerly, lowering his 
voice, as one afraid of being overheard ; 

* not Jenny's — not Jenny's ! yours, Gill.' 

Wondering but acquiescent, she follows 
him into his study, and as, instead of at 
once opening his business, he begins to 
fuss from the table to the window and 
back again ; to turn over papers and push 
about stools, and, in short, show every 
symptom of nervous disquiet, she seats 
herself in his elbow-chair to await with 

248 Second Thoughts. 

composure the subsidence of his efferves- 
cence. At length : 

* We have not been very comfortable of 
late, have we, Gill ?* he says, eyeing 
her tentatively and obliquely for a 
moment, and then at once looking away 

Not seeing the drift of this exor- 
dium, she can only assent with a puzzled 

* Well, not particularly I think, dear.* 
'Jenny is a good child,* he goes on 

rather more glibly ; ' I am sure I have 
every reason to speak well of her, but I 
suppose I have given her her head rather 
too much of late, and so — for her own 
sake ' 

* You are going to send her to school !' 
cries Gillian, springing from her chair, her 
eyes dancing with an animation and 
pleasure of which she would have thought 
them quite incapable this funeral morning. 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 249 

* Oh, how wise you are, dear !* flinging her 
arms in irresistible ^panchement round his 
short neck. 

* It — it is not exactly that,' says the 
Squire, writhing a little in her embrace, as 
if he knew he did not deserve it. 

* Then what is it ?' she cries impatiently, 
loosing her clasp. 

But this is just what he seems utterly 
powerless to explain. 

Instead, he walks again to the window, 
and thence, with his back well turned to 
her, says, in a mumbling voice : 

* It — it is not an easy thing for a man 
to be left with a lot of motherless girls on 
his hands.' 

' Motherless r 

She has found le mot de Vdnigme ! A 
flash of light darts in upon her. 

* You are going to marry again !' she 
says, in a breathless tone, the sudden 
scarlet hurrying up to her cheeks. 

250 Second Thoughts. 

He utters no contradiction, nor does he 
turn his face towards her. 

* I — I did it for the best/ he says in an 
apologetic tone. * I — I hope you do not 
mind ?' 

* Who is it T she says curtly, the red 
slowly dying into white again. 

* You do not guess }' in a rather crest- 
fallen and frightened tone. ' She said she 
was sure that you had seen how it was all 
along, being so intimate with her, having 
known her all her life.* 

She has begun by looking thoroughly 
mystified and inquiring, but as he comes 
to the last clause of his lame announce- 
ment, a light of comprehension leaps into 
her bright eyes. 

* Is it Sophia Tarlton ?* she asks in- 
quisitorially, marching sternly after him to 
the window, and compelling him to look 
at her. 

At the sight of him, so red, so sheepish, 

Second Thoughts Are Best, 251 

so utterly out of countenance, her last 
doubt dies. 

* I — I suppose that is about it/ he 
says, with a wretched attempt at a 

There is a pause, a pregnant, brooding 

Presently : * Sophia is your god-daugh- 
ter,* she says abruptly. 

* Yes,* he answers humbly. * It is very 
unfortunate — it cannot be helped.* 

* Isn*t she rather young ?* continues the 
girl, in the same cold, cut-and-dried 

* She is not far off thirty,* he answers 
deprecatingly, *and everybody says that 
she looks a great deal more. She is not 
at all flighty or young in herself, and you 
know she never was reckoned good- 

Despite her unmerry mood, Gillian 

252 Second Thoughts. 

cannot help breaking into unconquerable 

* You are painting your lady-love in 
attractive colours/ she says drily. Then, 
her conscience smiting her at sight of the 
misery and confusion of his good-humoured 
face, she goes on : 

* I am taking your news very ill- 
naturedly, dear, but you see it has come 
upon me like a thunder-clap. I think 
you have always been pretty happy, 
haven't you ?* kindly caressing his hand, 
which she has taken ; * but I hope you 
will be happier still now. If you love 
each other you certainly will. The only 
people in this world who are to be really 
pitied* — with a little stroke of self-com- 
passion which she knows will be neither 
noticed nor understood by him — * are those 
who have to do without love.' 

At the returning amity expressed in 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 253 

her voice, the Squire's brow clears. At 
all events the worst is over. 

* And Jane/ pursues Gillian presently, 
a ray of pungent amusement lighting her 
serious face — * what about Jane ?* 

*Ay, that is it,' he answers blankly, in- 
voluntarily dropping his voice again ; 

* who is to tell her } somebody must.* 

* Undoubtedly !' she answers drily. 

* I — I thought,' he says, nervously 
fiddling with the paper-weights and pens 
on the writing-table, and casting a glance 
of abject beseechment at his niece, * that 
perhaps you — you would like — you — you 
would not mind — you would.* 

* Thank you ; no, dear,' she replies, 
laughing caustically, and shaking her head ; 

* it is no business of mine. I would not 
for worlds deprive you of such a plea- 

His face falls, but presently brightens 

254 Second Thoughts. 

* I think 1 will leave it to her^ he 

From the time when he held her at 
the font, and gave her a mug and a 
rattle, he has always called his betrothed 
Sophia, as a matter of course ; but now 
the name seems to present insuperable 
obstacles to his tongue. 

* Do not you think, Gill, that it will 
come best from her ?* 

■3'c ^ ^ -JC- 

In the afternoon, though the weather 
shows no improvement. Miss Tarlton 
drives over in her pony-carriage to re- 
ceive the congratulations of her future 
family. As she wisely affects neither coy- 
ness nor sentiment, but appears in her 
usual rSle — perhaps a little intensified — 
of judicious, agreeable woman of the 
world — a r6le which ever since, at her 
entrance into womanhood, it became 
clear to her that the path of beauty 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 255 

was closed to her, she has adopted — 
the salutations go off with less awkward- 
ness than Gillian had feared. 

* I suppose it has been le secret de 
tout le monde for some time/ says Sophia, 
in high good-humour. ' I am afraid we 
did not take much pains to conceal our 
intentions. No ? Ah, true ! Your sus- 
picions lay in a different direction. Poor 
Dr. Burnet ! at one time I was certainly 
rather interested in the study of his 
character. I am so still to a certain 

Gillian turns sharply away, with a 
sudden wince. After a moment, recover- 
ing herself : 

* You will be good to him, won't you, 
Sophia T she says rather wistfully. 

* I make no rash promises,' answers 
Sophia, laughing. ' He was born to be 
tyrannised over, he would be wretched if 
he were not ; but I think I may engage 

256 Second Thoughts. 

that my yoke will not be so heavy as 
Jane's, and * (rather sHly) * not much 
worse than yours/ 

At this moment the Squire himself 
enters ; enters, but not unattended. About 
his broad shoulders is thrown the fostering 
arm of his tall daughter; a somewhat 
offensive air of protection and devotion 
in her whole bearing. 

* How do you do, Sophia ?' she says, 
extending her hand with an air of cold 
patronage. ' You are very brave to 
come out on such a day ; we did not 
at all expect morning visitors.* 

* Didn't you, Jane T replies Sophia, com- 
posedly. ' I came to talk business with 
your father ; ^ propos, my child, would you 
mind joining Emilia in the schoolroom 
while we discuss it ?' 

For a moment Jane s breath is so en- 
tirely taken away by this proposition, that 
she is incapable of any answer. Then — 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 257 

' Join Emilia !' she cries loudly, and 
crimsoning. * I think you forget your- 
self, Sophia ! Be turned out of my own 
drawing-room ! Do you hear, papa ? I 
appeal to you. Do you wish me to be 
turned out of my own drawing-room ?' 

But the Squire ha3 meanly backed out 
of the room again, leaving his womankind 
to fight it out. 

* Do not let us have a scene, Jane,' says 
Sophia, with quiet authority. * When you 
learn what our future relations to each 
other are to be, I am sure you will see 
the propriety of complying ; go, dear * 
(pointing decisively to the door), *let us 
hear no more about it.* 

For a moment Jane stands stunned ; 
then, as the overwhelming nature of the 
blow that has fallen upon her breaks upon 
her mind, she turns and bursts, stormily 
weeping, from the room. 

* She is a fine girl,' says Sophia, follow- 
VOL. II. 37 

258 Second Thoughts. 

ing her noisy exit with a dispassionate eye, 
' but she needs discipline. A couple of 
years at a good school will make her a 
different being.' 


THUS Fate takes the matter out of 
Gillian's hand. She has hesitated, 
procrastinated, lingered ; and now hesita- 
tion and procrastination must end. 

Under the firmer, if less tyrannical, 
sway of Sophia, there will be even less 
place for her than beneath Jane's violent 
rule. For the latter, being in its essence 
a tyranny, may any day be disrupted and 
break, as it has now broken ; but Sophia's 
strong and sober queenship will last till 
the All-ender ends it. So Gillian must 



Second Thoughts. 

l1 .vW 


To most it would seem no hard fate, 
thus trebly panoplied in youth, beauty, 
and wealth, to face a world which always 
meets with suave smiles and kisses those * 
who come to it full-handed. Had Gillian 
a hump, her fortune would make her of 
importance ; and were she penniless, her 
proud dewy eyes and her flower-textured 
face would open doors and hearts to her. 

As the news of the Squire's intended 
marriage, and of his niece s consequent 
quitting of his establishment to form a 
home of her own, becomes noised abroad, 
several of her admirers are emboldened 
to come forward and generously offer to 
share her ;^200,ooo. Chaloner suggests 
that he and she shall burn like a pure 
and gem-like flame upon one altar. 

She thanks them all for their good 
opinion, but replies that her thoughts are 
not turned towards marriage. 

She has decided finally upon a years 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 261 

travel — an Egyptian winter, an Italian 
spring, a Swiss summer. If none of these 
change the current of her thoughts, she 
is indeed incorrigible. 

Indifferent, almost hostile as she has 
hitherto felt towards her own wealth, she 
cannot but be in some measure thankful 
for it now. Were she poor, she would 
have to stay at home, brooding with one- 
idead monotony over her pain. Now she 
can take it in luxurious travel, to be dis- 
sipated, if it may, by strange sights and 
Nile airs softly blowing. 

She has not long come to this de- 
cision, but is already almost as deeply 
immersed in guide-books, maps, couriers, 
and travelling companions, as is Sophia 
in the selection of a trousseau sensible 
and judicious as herself — a trousseau which 
will do credit to the Squire's choice, with- 
out making him appear ridiculous when 
seen beside it. 

262 Second Thoughts. 

One morning Gillian is sitting at the 
general writing-table in the hall (from her 
own Jane has early ousted her), a pile of 
letters to be answered, relating chiefly to 
her future travels, before her, when the 
Squire enters hastily, to her surprise — 
for at breakfast he had given no hint' of 
such an intention — equipped as for a 
journey. On his countenance are patent 
marks of discomposure and apprehen- 

* I have come to say good-bye, Gill,* 
he says, approaching her. * I am off to 

She looks up inquiringly. 

* Are you, dear } is not that rather a 
sudden thought ?' 

*The fact is,' he answers, in an em- 
barrassed voice, ' I — I have had some 
bad news.' 

' Have you, indeed ?' she says, solicit- 
ously, and rising. * Of what kind ?' 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 263 

Looking at him now more narrowly, 
she perceives the. extreme gravity of his 
air and manner. 

* It does not affect me personally/ he 
answers evasively ; ' I wish it did. It is 
about — about * 

It is so evident that he is awkwardly 
trying to break something to her, as the 
phrase is, that her fears rise. 

Before her judgment can interpose to 
point out that the Squire would see no 
reason why the severest ill that could 
befall Burnet should be broken to her, 
her alarms have fled irrational and light- 
ning-quick to him. 

* About me }' she cries, in great agita- 
tion — * oh ! if so, pray let me hear at 
once ! Is anyone ' — paling to the lips — * is 

anyone ill }' 

He shakes his head. 

' No, not that I am aware of. The 
fact is * — producing a paper, which he 

264 Second Thoughts. 

has been holding in his hand, and 
pointing to a paragraph as he offers it 
to her — * I have just seen this ; I do 
not want to frighten you, Gill, but I — I 
do not like the look of it' 

Her eyes follow the direction indicated, 
and she reads : 


*At a meeting of Bank Managers, held in 
Edinburgh last night, it was intimated that the 
Drumcoe and Farbrigg Bank had resolved to 
stop payment' 

It is the Bank, shares in which form 
part of the undesired legacy lately left her 
by her far-away cousin. 

' Is that all T she cries, drawing a 
breath of relief; *pray do not take such 
a trifle as that to heart, dear! Lightly 
come, and lightly gone,' shrugging philo- 

But the nonchalance with which she 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 265 

receives the news of her loss has no 
effect in clearing his brow. 

* I do not want to frighten you,* he 
repeats very seriously, *but I am afraid 
it involves more than that. You see it 
was an unlimited concern.* 

* Was it ?* she says, startled,, but not 
for the moment seeing the drift of his 

*And being so, the shareholders are 
liable, not only for the amount of their 
shares, but for every other penny they 
possess in the world.* 

* I do not understand,* she answers, in 
a puzzled voice ; her features not having 
even yet caught much reflection of the 
alarm of his. * Do you mean that the mere 
accidental owning a few pounds in this 
Bank can involve the loss of my whole 
fortune } Why, I did not even invest them ! 
they were left to me. I was not given any 
choice in the matter.' 

266 Second Thoughts. 

' That is the law, however/ he says, still 
in that aghast tone. 

* Do you mean/ she says, changing 
colour a little, though not very perceptibly, 
as the full meaning of his words dawns on 
her unprepared and wondering mind, * that 
they can call upon me for everything I 
have in the world — all my other invest- 
ments — everything ?* 

* It is so,' he answers miserably. * Even 
trustees have been held liable ; if it had 
happened six months ago, they would have 
come down on Burnet too for every penny 
he possessed.* 

* Then thank God it did not happen 
six months ago T she answers em- 

There is a pause. 

Gillian has sat down again, and is 
blankly staring at the sentences she has 
just read without understanding a word of 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 267 

* It is no use/ she says, shaking her 
fair head ; * I cannot take it in. I suppose 
one cannot at the first moment. I am all 
in a maze. How soon/ looking up at 
him with composure, and laying on his 
sleeve a hand that trembles scarcely more 
than it did when at his entrance she 
first placed it there — ' how soon shall we 
know the worst "i One would like to 
know as soon as possible how one 

* That is why I am going to London,' 
he cries, eagerly catching at the idea of 
exertion and action. ' I must see Saunders 
at once. Saunders will tell us. Saunders 
will know.* 

Ten minutes later he is setting off, 
fussily buttoning his ulster and fervently 
kissing her, and saying in a sobbing 
smothered voice : 

' Keep up, Gill — don't break down !' 
She stands calmly watching him as he 

268 Second Thoughts. 

whirls away out of sight, with almost a 
smile on her face. 

It surprises even herself, but she does 
not feel the slightest inclination to break 


' Die Engel, die nennen es Himmelsfreud', 
Die Teufel, die nennen cs Hollenleid, 
Die Menschen, die nennen es — Liebe !' 

THE Squire is away three days. 
Three days upon which Gillian after- 
wards looks back as being in their essence 
different from any other three in her whole 
life. Throughout them the same com- 
posure folds her as had come to her aid 
in the first moment. 

Her friends and housemates think that 
she is stunned by the magnitude of the blow 
that has fallen upon her, but she knows 

270 Second Thoughts, 

that it IS not so ; she knows that she tastes 
the thymy sweetness of the fell breeze 
and the warmth of the recovered sun- 
shine with as keen a palate as ever, that 
there has even come back to her spirits 
an elasticity that has long been absent 
from them. 

Her fortune has never been connected 
in her mind but with ideas of mortification, 
anxiety, and pain. Before she had it, she 
lacked none of the good things it brought 
her ; and though reason speaks to her of 
the changed and infinitely worsened 
conditions of her future life, yet no reason 
is able to quell the spontaneous and to 
onlookers inexplicable light-heartedness 
which has sprung up in her. 

When she laughs they think that she 
must be hysterical, and look round 
anxiously for hartshorn and burnt feathers. 
All speak to her in soft low keys, as 
though one so visited needed gentle hand- 

Second Thoughts Are Best, 271 

ling ; even wrathful, dethroned Jane 
lowers her masterful voice in addressing 

And through it all she feels herself an 
impostor, that is obtaining under false 
pretences all their kind looks and tender 

At the end of the three days the Squire 
returns, returns crestfallen, dejected, 
wretched beyond example or compare. 
For he is the bearer of ill-tidings. 

The news of the failure of the Drumcoe 
and Farbrigg Bank, and of the large ruin 
it involves, is but too well authenticated. 
Among the numerous victims precipitated 
by its collapse in one moment from afflu- 
ence or competence to direst poverty is 
Gillian Latimer. 

It is with torrents of tears, straining 
her to his good warm heart, that he tells 
her this. 

She cries, too, for sympathy, but her 

272 Second Thoughts. 

heart is light. She has, indeed, much 
ado to restrain her laughter, when pre- 
sently she finds her uncle, carried away by 
the emotion of the moment, actually pro- 
posing to abandon his Sophia, and rein- 
state her in her old place as mistress of 
his house and heart. 

Nor can anything be kinder than the 
unsuspecting Sophia herself. 

* Dear Gill,' she says, caressing the 
girl's fair hand, * of course your home will 
always be with us. I am not afraid of 
being contradicted ' — with a glance of 
easy confidence at her betrothed — * when 

I say so.' 

The Squire looks rather guilty, and, at 
the recollection of his late offer, a slight, 
short smile steals over Gillian's own grave 
lips — grave more because she knows it is 
expected of them, than that they could 
not very easily break redly into 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 273 

When they have for the present done 
kissing and crying over her, she sh'ps away 
from them to combat, as they think, her 
woe in the privacy of her own room ; in 
reality, to breast the mountain-side. 

A longing for solitude and high places 
is upon her, high places where she can 
sing and talk aloud to herself, and give 
some account to her own heart of this 
apparently perverse and senseless joyous- 
ness which has taken hold of her. 

It is a long stiff climb to Docker Moor, 
which she has proposed as the goal of 
her exertions. Up and up, behind the 
house, up the stony grey-walled mountain 
road, through the long steep pastures, to 
where, standing at the top, on the rugged 
table-land of rock and moor, the mixed 
breath of sea and hill blows fresh and keen 
in her toiling face. 

She has reached the summit, and, 
flushed and panting, has sunk down on a 

VOL. II. 38 


274 Second Thoughts. 

Hchened boulder to take her pleasant rest 
Not a living soul is within sight or sound. 
Nature's soothing silence enwraps her ; and 
while her lazy hands pluck the little wiry 
heather-sprigs, her eye, free and possessive, 
wanders widely round, from where the salt 
tide washes into Morecambe Bay, to where 
the fair fells lift their shining shoulders 
and the sun twists through the meads. 
It is a day of autumn pride and pomp, 
crisp and brave, with brake fern frost- 
touched into bronze, and universal shining. 

As she so sits, queening it alone on 
the hill-top, little smiles, that norie see, 
flit across her face. She is glad — it is a 
good omen — that, on the day which has 
brought her apparent ruin, the sun should 
make such a fair show, and the breeze so 
freshly whisper. 

Do they rejoice with her, all of them — 
sun and breeze and thymy fell — that the 
golden load has fallen from her shoulders. 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 275 

that the wall built up between her and 
him has fallen as Jericho's wall fell at the 
trump of the Syrian mage, and that there 
is now nothing to prevent him from 
stretching out his hand to her across its 
ruins ? 

The lightfoot hours dance by, the great 
sun declines to his setting, and to receive 
him all the amorous west dresses herself 
in blinding carnations and wondrous pale 
sulphurs. The night, that comes quickly 
now in these shortening days, draws on. 
She must go. 

With a reluctant sigh of good-bye to 
her fair visions, she rises and prepares to 
retrace her steps downwards. Just as she 
is in the act of setting off, her eye is 
caught by a distant solitary figure climbing 
the hillside as she herself had done two 
hours ago. At sight of him she catches 
her breath, and, with hands locked and 
straining eyes, fiwaits his coming. 


276 Second Thoughts. 

Past the dark firwood he fleetly mounts ; 
across the uneven rock and the sparse 
hill-grass he steps. He is within sight 
now — within recognition. 

All beflamed with sunset she sees him ; 
she knows him ! After all she is not 
surprised. She had known that he would 
come ; but that this day, this very day, 
would be the crowned king-day of her 
life, she had not known. 

As he nears her, she makes an effort 
to go to meet him ; but of our poor 
powers joy robs us no less than pain. 
She must needs give up the attempt, and 
sink down once more, all trembling, on 
her rocky throne. 

He is close to her now — he is beside 
her — and she is looking up with love's 
pallid ecstasy into his transfigured face. 

* Have you come to condole with me T 
she says, putting out her shaking hand 
to him, and with a tremulous low laugh. 

Second Thoughts Are Best. 277 

For the moment he does not answer. 
Perhaps by her throne he recognises that 
she is a queen. At all events, he has 
thrown himself courtier-wise on his knees 
beside her, and, with his head bent down 
to the very earth, is madly kissing the 
hem of her gown. 

* What are you doing Y she cries, below 
her breath, panting and almost inarti- 

Then indeed he lifts his radiant face — 
radiant even through manhood's rare and 
precious tears. 

* I am asking,* he cries brokenly, * asking 
for a boon so great that I dare not put 
it into words — that I wonder how I dare 
to ask it at all !' 

There is a moment's pause ; then — 

* You loved your pride more than me,' 
she says, with a little sob. * How do you 
know that I do not love mine better than 
I do you T 

278 Second Thoughts. 


For all answer he enfolds her slender 
body with the passionate vigour of his 
fond arms ; and she, yielding to that loved 
and desired embrace, falls forwards weep- 
ing on his neck. 

* You said once that you had rather be 

fl ' she murmurs indistinctly ; but the 

end of that ugly sentence is cut off by 
a kiss. 



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Red as a Rose is She. 

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* If unwearied brilliancy, style, picturesque descriptions, humorous and 
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Not Wisely, but Too Well. 




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* I have now read over again all Miss Austen's novels. Charming they are. 
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* The perfect type of a novel of common life ; the story is so concisely and 
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' One of the best of Miss Austen's unequalled works. How perfectly it is 
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* Shakespeare has neither equal nor second ; but among the writers who have 
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* What wonderful books those are ! Miss Austen must have written down the 
very conversations she heard verbatim, to have made them so like, which is 
Irish.' — Fanny Kbmblb's Reminiscences. '^ 

' Read Dickens' " Hard Times," and another book of Pliny's " Letters." 
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the work of a girl. She was certainly not more than twenty-six. Wonderful 
creature I'^Macaulay's Journal. 


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Orville College. 

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Too Strange Not to be True. 

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As He Comes Up the Stairs. 



Five Years Penal Servitude. 



A Rogues Life. 



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My Queen. 



Archibald Malmaison. 



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Two Ne w Serial Stories 


The Temple Bar Magazine, 







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I^y Adelaides Oath. By Mrs. Henry Wood.— The American 
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at. By Mrs. Alexander.— A Race for a Wife. By Hawley Smart.— 
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